Thirteen months ago an idea was born to bring a community-designed, funded and built playground to Price.
It was the fifth such playground designed by the Leathers and Associates of Ithaca, N.Y., constructed in Utah. Leathers' designers have built 1,700 of these state-of-the-art playgrounds in all 50 states and in four foreign countries. They have been in the playground-design business for the past 30 years and their playgrounds pass all government ADA standards. The company's playground designs complement the architecture of the surrounding communities.
Jeanne McEvoy collaborated with me to bring together a committee of volunteers that would plan each integral part of this playground that utilizes the latest cognitive and physical activities in its design.
The central Price location was chosen because of its access to other recreation areas: the skate park, basketball courts and BMX track. This area already has bathrooms, a covered picnic area and parking lot that complements the "one-stop playground" concept.
The Price city mayor and council approved the donation of the one-acre property for the playground.
Meeting in September 2005, a steering committee was established to chair the public relations (Merilee Prettyman), coordinator committee (Amy Jespersen), food (Judy Jensen), children's (Rebecca Taylor), daycare (Lisa Branch), tools (Jan and Alan Young), materials (Grady McEvoy), volunteers (Kathy Murray) and special needs committee (Mae Aguayo and Joni Westbrook). They established guidelines and policies.
Working with Delynn Fielding, Carbon County Economic Development director, the park established itself as a 501(c)3 so its contributors could get a tax break on their donations.
One of the committee's first policies was the naming of the playground. Like other playgrounds in Utah (Novel's Discovery Park in Pleasant Grove, Eccles' Castle Heights Park in Fruit Heights and the Mountain America's Wild West Park in West Valley), the local park would be named after the person or organization that provided the largest donation to help fund the cost of the park.
Raising the seed money and getting the children involved was the next hurdle the committee faced. Committee members started writing grants to regional and national corporations to secure funding for the park. More than
5,000 trifolds were printed and donated by Peczuh Printing with PowerPoint presentations created to show throughout the county at civic and business events.
The Kiwanis Club of Carbon County provided the $3,000 seed money and Kristen Lowe took on the responsibility of planning the Design Day slated on Feb. 19.
Design Day brought 75 children to the College of Eastern Utah Student Center where they drew pictures and discussed everything they wanted included in their park. Some of their favorite items were slides, swings, dinosaurs, a rocket, volcano, misters, a climbing wall and a maze.
Barry Segal from Leathers, spent that afternoon drawing the playground, incorporating most everything the students wanted. He unveiled his drawing at a community celebration later that evening. Erica Mantz read her poem written about the new playground.
Spring break was spent on the stage of the Geary Theatre building three towers for the Dino-Mine Park float that would be entered in five parades over the next six months.
Next came the naming of the playground by the children. Eleven children came up with "Dino-Mine Adventure Park" in April.
Fundraising shot up to full throttle as businesses and civic groups were contacted for possible donations. The committee's goal was to raise $250,000. They sold handprints for $5, engraved pickets for the fence $25, engraved paver bricks for the entrance $50 and engraved benches and tables $100. A kiosk located outside the park would include the names of anyone who generously donated $500 or more.
A memorial park to remember departed loved ones was the idea of Virginia Gallegos. Her committee sold engraved "in memory" bricks for the garden for $50 which is located outside the park.
The public relations committee contacted the Price Theatre's manager who agreed to show a Dino-Mine ad before every movie. The Sun Advocate's promotion added $5 to the park for every subscription or renewal they received. Precis Communications ran ads on channel 10. JCPenney employees stuffed flyers in every sack and let the committee use its front window space for a display. A four-wheeler was purchased and $11,000 in raffle tickets sold. Local golfer Al Vogrinec volunteered to work with Tom King Jr. to plan a golf tournament at the Carbon Country Club to benefit the park.
Albertson's organized a bowling night, area moms created and sold magnets, the CEU cosmetology department donated all funds earned from one day of haircuts to go toward the park. Schools and civic organizations were hosting fundraisers to contribute to funding the park. The entire community seemed to be helping in this monumental endeavor.
The committee baked cookies and sold raffle tickets in front of Smith's, Albertson's and WalMart on weekends. They had an information table set up at Sunnyside Days, Cinco de Mayo, Scofield's July 4th Celebration, Wellington's 24th Celebration, Price's International Days and the Helper Arts Festival.
The committee appeared before the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District in June requesting $75,000 to help build the park. The board agreed to help fund the park if the committee could raise the additional $125,000 before Aug. 15. The only way they could raise the money in that time frame is to have a business or person provide a large sum of money.
Sam Quigley signed on to help the fundraising committee by contacting the mines and energy businesses for donations.
The break the committee needed came from local residents, Tony and Jessica Basso, who offered the committee $35,000. Basso said the community had been extremely good to him and his family and he needed to give back to the community.
With the Basso backing, Conoco Phillips' and Kiwanis' $10,000 contribution, the Lion's Clubs and Carbon School Districts $5,000 gifts, the community spirit soared and more than $200,000 was added to the bank in the next six weeks. Even the most verbal critics were amazed that all the funding was in place by Aug. 15.
The next crucial pivot to the build was getting the $195,000 of materials to the site by Sept. 11, the first day of the build. Many of the park's special components and structural plastic had to be shipped from the East Coast. Grady McEvoy worked tirelessly getting everything on the site in preparation for the build. He got some materials donated or provided at cost from many area businesses.
As materials for the build started to arrive, excavation of the site was crucial. Price city and Carbon County worked together along with Nielson Construction to remove 6,000 cubic yards of soil to make the park site level. The volunteer committee continued to call everyone in the phone book looking for volunteers and added 927 names to their database. They needed 2,000 for the six-day build.
Construction captains signed on to coordinate the build each day. They were at the site at 7 a.m. each morning and closed the site down each evening after dark. The team consisted of Dondra Nance, Darwin Jenson, Lavell King, Paul Anderson, Mark Jespersen, Boyd Bell, Albert Barnett, Ben and Renee Blackburn, Grant Laws, Wayne Parker, Louis Stilson, Cliff Arno, Bob Satair, Gary Latour and Olie Olsen. Robert DalPonte served as site manager.
On the eve of Sept. 10, the key players in the build met with Michael Cohen and Bill Hugill, general contractors from Leathers and Associates. Cohen has built 145 playgrounds and Hugill, 80. That night they set up the tool trailer with donated and purchased tools, organized the food area, secured the day care and assembled the first aid and volunteer booth.
More than 1,000 volunteers worked the first two days with most being served a meal donated from a business, church or individual. Eighteen meals, plus thousands of snacks and drinks were donated by the community to feed the volunteers for every four-hour shift they worked.
By Sept. 16, almost 3,500 volunteers had worked. They survived blistering sun and heat the first three days of the build and unseasonably cold rain and wind the next three days. Many well-known artists from Helper and Price worked their magic and created murals for the park that were simply awe-inspiring.
And at precisely 6:30 p.m. Saturday night, more than 1,000 people stood in the cold waiting for the appreciative remarks and photo opportunities to finish. As the last rays of sun hit the peaks of the park, the ribbon was cut and hundreds of anxious children exploded through the park's entrance to play for the first time.
The residents of Carbon County may never get to witness an event like this ever again. People of all ages, cultures, races and abilities working together to create a one-of-a-kind park for the children. They witnessed a community that so often is brought together by tragedies, unite in community spirit. They were enriched with an all-volunteer-built experience that consumed the county for one magical week. For some the week ended not soon enough, for others it could have gone on forever. It was an experience of a lifetime for some and a beginning for others. It will remain an inspiration of a firm belief in volunteerism and the value of the community.
We, as a committee believed that this community would help us in ways unimaginable. The Basso Dino-Mine Adventure Park is a reality . . . and there aren't enough words in the world to express the committee's appreciation to the residents of southeastern Utah for helping make this idea come full circle.
Our residents have a new sense of commitment to each other and to the community. It is an inspiration to watch everyone marvel at this community's accomplishment.