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  • John Boone


Back in the 1980s, a group of Kingston Rotarians built their first playground structure at Lord Strathcona Public School. A design was purchased, and the basic ingredients of fun - a climber, slide, and swing set - were built. In those days, the safety rules were much more relaxed than they are today. The project was managed by Alan Wale, a Rotarian and contractor, who recruited a team of Rotarians to help.

Then in 2005, I had a chance meeting with John Garvin, a member of the board of the Kingston Housing Committee. He identified a need for a playground structure for children in the complex on Conacher Drive. John stated that there were over 175 children without a safe place to play at these rental units.

As the founder and chair of the RICE (Rotary Initiated Child Enrichment) Committee, I suggested that we would investigate the possibility of correcting this situation. I formed a tripod committee consisting of the Kingston Housing Authority, the Conacher Drive residents group, and the Rotary Club of Kingston to develop a plan to build a neighbourhood playground structure. All of the parties were delighted to participate! I requested that the Conacher Drive residents take a leading role to ensure the maintenance and upkeep of the project. They agreed and this proved to be a pivotal decision in the success of the project.

The expertise to build the playground was beyond our capabilities so we negotiated an excellent deal (about 50% off) with a private firm to manage the project. On a cool Saturday in May, much to the delight of the children and parents, construction began.

To ensure completion of the work, we began early in the day with a large contingent of Rotarians and volunteers. By the end of the day, close to 5 pm, the firm had to leave for Ottawa, and we were left with an unfinished playground. Needless to say, with several tasks and over a tonne of pea gravel to move, we were discouraged until Rotarian Mark “Bobcat” Hanley arrived on the scene with a front-end loader to finish the job. An exhausted but jubilant group of volunteers cheered and, thanks to the owner of the nearby McDonald’s, the entire crew was invited to a meal to celebrate the day!

Fifteen years later the playground is in excellent condition and nearly 200 neighbourhood children still have a place to play every day. Residents and children are happy, and Rotarians feel good for having had the opportunity to participate in such an excellent project and make a difference in our community.

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