Downtown playground work begins in earnest this weekend|[03/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2008

A fire pole, cradle climber, riverboat and rubber bridge are just a few of the amenities of a downtown community playground organizers and volunteers will start building in nine days.

Planning, led by the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg, has been under way for more than a year and as the April 2-6 construction blitz nears, organizers are calling for tools, volunteers and sponsorships.

So far, $117,000 in private funds has been raised to build the playground on Mulberry Street south of LD’s Kitchen and adjacent to the city-run Art Park at Catfish Row. The land was given to JA by the city to continue revitalizing City Front. The Warren County Board of Supervisors has said it would support the project with up to $5,000. Other funds have been garnered through various efforts, such as selling bricks, pickets and handprint tiles that will complete the playground design — in addition to allowing individuals to add a personalized touch. A gap of about $21,000 is left to complete the $180,000 project, which, fundraising chairman Allison Cox believes will happen in time for the first swing of a hammer.

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“The checks have been rolling in since we sent out the first letter,” she said.

Collecting the necessary tools to build the various components of the playground is a major part of preparation. Bess Averett, who is heading the tool drive, said a trailer will be parked at the site Saturday and Sunday from 1 until 5 p.m. for people to lend household tools.

“What we really need is some of the tools people have around the house,” Averett said. “And, we do need tools for the entire week.”

From drills to hammers to levels and measuring tape, they’re all part of what will arm the 1,000 volunteers to assemble playground components based on a design created largely by local children.

“It’s going to be a hoot. Can you imagine building a playground in five days?” Cox said.

The idea is similar to projects around Mississippi, such as Avent Park in Oxford and Planet Playground in Meridian, where residents came out in droves to see a playground became a reality.

“This is a community-built playground. We need the community to come together,” Averett said.

Much of the material used for the main design will be plastic/composite lumber, which is why organizers need a minimum of 65 electric or battery-operated drills. Averett said all of the tools will be locked up and protected by 24-hour security, and a cataloguing system will be used to make sure the tools aren’t misplaced.

“We have a contingency fund. If the tools are harmed or given back in a different condition, we will replace them,” she said. “We want people to lend with an ease of mind and no risk.”

The riverboat-themed playground, which will include slides, an obstacle course, seating, climbers and swings, will be handicapped-accessible and was designed by students who gathered in February to share thoughts on how they’d like the area to look. Other fundraising efforts, such as a communitywide garage sale and placing signs in yards to collect funds, have been part of readying for the big week. Although construction will officially begin April 2, organizers will have a pre-construction day April 1 from 1 until 5 p.m. so volunteers can set posts for the rest of the design. Shifts for volunteer work are available on the Web site,, where people may volunteer in various capacities.

“It will be very exciting to have this many members of the community working side-by-side for one common goal,” Cox said. “I’m looking forward to seeing people from all walks of life working together.”

If you goTo volunteer to help build the Playground at Catfish Row, a project of the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg, on April 2-6, sign up at or by calling 601-638-1404. The playground will be on Mulberry Street adjacent to the Art Park at Catfish Row. Information about sponsoring equipment and donating funds is also available at the site.To donateTo lend household tools, contact Bess Averett at 601-661-8116. A tool trailer will be at the playground site from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The tools, which will be protected with 24-hour security, will be used for the entire construction April 2-6. All tools will be registered, catalogued and may be picked up at the site on April 7 from 3 until 7 p.m. A complete list of tools needed is on the Web site at Tools for which there is a greater need are:At least 65 electric or battery-operated drills50 hammersLevelsTwo- and three-way splitters50 tape measures 25 feet or longerThree orbital jigsaws