Five years ago, the greater Port Washington community came together to build a playground for children of all abilities.
Hundreds of people raised almost $500,000, then spent six days constructing Possibility Playground in Upper Lake Park.
Since then, thousands of youngsters and their families have come to the city to play on the playground.
“There are so many kids who play there who weren’t even born when we built it,” said Mardy McGarry, whose dream of an accessible playground sparked a community movement.
But to celebrate this milestone, organizers aren’t holding a huge party.
Instead, they are closing the park to hold a work day starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. Volunteers are asked to bring a dish to pass for a potluck dinner that will be held at the end of the day.
The list of projects is long, but not impossible to accomplish for volunteers willing to spend some time, McGarry said.
“We’ve got some big things that have to be done,” she said.
They include replacing some deck boards on a ramp — the existing boards aren’t bad, but the new ones incorporate a game component, McGarry said — installing a message board and donation tube, doing touch-up painting and sprucing up the gardens.
There’s also general sweeping and cleaning to be done, she said.
“All these things take digging and concrete and power tools,” McGarry said. “We’re asking people to come and bring their rakes and brooms and tools to help us out.”
They are also asking volunteers not to bring children, since it will be a serious work day, she said.
The number of active members of the Friends of Possibility Playground has dwindled through the years, McGarry said, although the group has “an incredible” volunteer maintenance man in Dennis Jacoby.
But there’s more work than he can do alone, she said.
“If we get a group of people working together, it won’t take as long as it would otherwise,” McGarry said.
Playground organizers are also asking the public to help them deal with the problem of people tearing up the specialized rubber surface of the playground.
So far, they have had to patch the surface three times, McGarry said, primarily because of people walking on it with high heels and athletic spikes on their shoes.
“It’s just destroying it,” she said, noting the $100,000 surface is supposed to last eight to 10 years.
“We need to encourage people to take ownership of the park. If you see someone doing this, do something about it.”
In addition to the anniversary celebration and work day, McGarry said, organizers are holding their final “buy a picket” fundraiser through the end of this year.
There’s room for about 300 more engraved pickets on the fence, she said. The pickets each sell for $30, with proceeds going toward the park.
Possibility Playground has turned out to be a true community gathering place, McGarry said.
The playground has become known throughout the country, not just through word of mouth, but also through newspaper articles and even a story in Reader’s Digest, and this local, grassroots effort has inspired numerous other communities to replicate it.
“It’s amazing how many people are duplicating this,” McGarry said.
“A lot of people come here, see the kids playing and bring the idea home, saying, ‘We want to do a playground like they did in Port Washington.’”