May 11, 1996 in Nation/World

Kiwanis Club Taps Kootenai Kids’ Imaginations For Fortress Of Fun

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It’s a kid’s dream come true - a veritable granddaddy of playgrounds.

The Fort Sherman Playground will span almost a half acre, include a mirror maze, wooden boats, a suspension bridge and a castle - and that’s barely the beginning.

Even cooler, this romping ground was designed by Kootenai County kids. (OK, they had a little help from an architect.) This playground, to be situated in Coeur d’Alene’s City Park, is all part of an Idaho Panhandle Kiwanis Club project.

“It’s a place where children can be creative and imaginative, they can be active and busy and they can have a lot of fun,” said Terry Wright, a Fernan Elementary teacher whose students helped design the playground.

The club - with the aid of local children - plans to construct the The Fort Sherman Playground by next spring.

It will be no small task. The existing basketball courts must be ripped out and moved to the west end of the park to make room for the gigantic structure. And the community will have to raise more than $80,000, said Cort Wilcox, Kiwanis president-elect and head of the project.

“It’s a project that will allow our community to come together with a visible accomplishment,” Wilcox said Friday. “When people see this playground they will see that it was built by a community that comes together.”

And when it’s done, the playground will be a sight to behold - judging by the preliminary design that arrived in Coeur d’Alene Friday.

Oh sure, it’s got the usual slides (a tube slide, tot slide, twisty slide and bumpy slide) and swings (nine of them).

But this playground is designed to be a truly fanciful fortress - one that includes a tree house, climbing wall, rubber bridge, balance beam, firefighter’s pole, tunnel maze and play house.

Oh, and don’t forget the wooden airplane, balance beams, hanging platform and chain climber.

The Kiwanis got the idea from a members who had seen a similar playground in Oregon.

The club then drafted the help of New York architect, Leathers and Associates, to design it. They are the same people who designed the Oregon playground and about 1,000 others like it around the country.

“I looked at it and I thought this would be a really great project,” said Louise Gillespie, Panhandle Kiwanis president. “I think the kids need something downtown to play in.”

The Kiwanis also decided to get input from the true experts - kids.

The architect and club members went to three elementary schools last month to ask kids what they wanted in the ultimate playground.

Erin Carr, a third-grader at Fernan, suggested a maze.

“It would be really neat to kinda get trapped and there’d be a whole bunch of exits and then you could find your way out,” she said Friday.

She’s pleased that adults would ask her opinion. After all “Kids are the ones who are going to be playing on it,” she pointed out.

“I truly believe that the adults could not have thought of a quarter of what the kids thought of,” Wright said.

But don’t let the kids know it’s not all fun and games. The playground will be specially designed to encourage muscle and balance development in children, Gillespie said. It will be constructed largely of a hard wood that does not splinter.

“Everything that is being designed within it is being done with safety factors in mind,” she said.

The Fort Sherman theme also will stand as a kind of history lesson from the days when Coeur d’Alene had the old cavalry fort, Wilcox said.

The Kiwanis Club already has raised about $16,000. Wright and other teachers are organizing a student effort to raise money and awareness.

Wilcox hopes to have the playground under construction by May or June 1997. He plans to have hundreds of volunteers - adults and children alike - build the playground within six or seven days.

By having the children design and build the park, Wright believes it will be better cared for and less vandalized.

“We want this to be a neat, fun, exciting place to go but at the same time we want to keep it beautiful,” she said. “We need those kids to look at it as theirs and not just the city’s.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HOW TO HELP Donations for The Fort Sherman Playground can be sent to: The Fort Sherman Playground Project: Care of Cort Wilcox at D.A. Davidson & Co. at 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 400, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.

This sidebar appeared with the story: HOW TO HELP Donations for The Fort Sherman Playground can be sent to: The Fort Sherman Playground Project: Care of Cort Wilcox at D.A. Davidson & Co. at 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 400, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.


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