Rome was not built in a day, but a playground on the North Side may be.
Over 200 volunteers gathered at Allegheny Commons this morning, enduring the heat and bugs to build a playground for the neighborhood's children. The project, which received a $20,000 grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, kicked off the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities annual convention on community revitalization.
Over the course of five hours, 15 teams of volunteers carried out various tasks: some assembled monkey bars, others repainted benches, still others cleared weeds and laid mulch. The scene was busy and festive, rife with orange and purple balloons and a sea of volunteers wearing yellow "Build Day" T-shirts.
"It's really exciting to see a park go from nothing to a beautiful new playground," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "At the end of this long, hot day, everyone's going to be really proud of what they've done."
The playground includes six slides, a rock climbing wall, monkey bars and a variety of climbing structures for kids ages 2 to 12. The project was a joint partnership among the League of Cities and Municipalities, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Highmark, the Grable Foundation, the Central Northside Neighborhood Council and KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating play spaces for children.
The last recognized Pittsburgh this year as a "playful city," a designation also awarded to 212 other cities including Durham, N.C., and San Francisco.
Lisa Klane, a project manager with KaBOOM!, said she hopes the new park will encourage local kids to play outside. Only 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. lives within walking distance of a playground, she said, adding that free play teaches children cooperation, teamwork and independent thought.
The park was designed with input from neighborhood children, Ms. Klane said, solicited at a community meeting in February. Equipment was purchased from Playworld Systems Inc., a commercial playground company based in Lewisburg, Union County.
As he stopped for a water break, volunteer Bob Gates said he appreciated the value of a well-built playground after parenting his four kids.
"When my oldest, now 24, was a kid, Pittsburgh playgrounds were metal monkey bars on concrete," he said. "Now they're a lot more safe and a lot more fun."
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ First Published June 19, 2012 7:45 PM