Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — The city of Fairfield will soon begin replacing the wooden play structure at O.B. Nelson Park known as the Partners for Play playground.
The city council voted in June to purchase new equipment for the playground, which would be plastic and metal, replacing the wood that dates to the playground’s creation in 1999.
The design and construction of Partners for Play playground was a true community effort that relied on private donations and countless hours of volunteer help. Sarah Cochran remembers that time fondly.
“Through the park and rec department, we put together a committee to do it,” she said. “We hired a designer who went to the schools and asked the kids for their input. What do they want? When I look back, I realize it was one of those things I helped to do that provided much more of a reward than the time spent on it.”
Tammy Dunbar, who was on the park and rec foundation board at the time, recalled that the playground was mostly privately funded, with help from the city.
“A lot of the labor was donated,” she said. “We had one team, and all they did was cut boards. And another team just screwed in the boards. Some people just carried boards from one place to another. That’s how we worked, in those compartments.”
Dunbar said it was a “community project through and through,” and Fairfield residents were so glad to have it.
“That’s why it was so hard to move the pool to the rec center,” Dunbar said, referring to the city’s decision to move the pool from O.B. Nelson Park to where it is now, adjoining the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center on South Ninth Street. The pool reopened at the new location in 2015 after having been closed for a few years.
Dunbar said Partners for Play was built at O.B. Nelson Park because it offered nice amenities nearby with the pool and ball diamonds, the great visibility from South Highway 1, and its close proximity to Pence Elementary School and Fairfield Middle School.
Cochran said that the committee chose to go with wood because it was considered fancy at the time. Making it out of wood also allowed volunteers to cut the boards and build it.
“It involved so many people,” Cochran said. “The designs, like the pirate ship, came from kids. A lot of the ideas about what should be there came from kids.”
Dunbar said the playground was expected to last about 15 years when it was built, so it has exceeded its life expectancy. She credits Pam Craff and Ed Wood in the parks department for maintaining the playground so well over the years.
“We got a lot of life out of it,” Dunbar said. “It wasn’t expected to last that long.”
Dunbar said it will be sad to see the playground go because of all the memories that were made there.
“If you walk over some of those little bridges, you see the little hand prints of the kids who are now business leaders in the community,” Dunbar said. “That makes it a little tough. But you realize that we’re doing something that will build memories for the following generations. And hopefully we’ll make one that lasts 20-30 years, if we can make one that lasts as long as this one did.”
Cochran said many friendships have been made at that playground. It brought people together, young and old.
“It will always hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts who were involved in the whole process,” she said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org