Raymond playground gets rave reviews
Five-year-old Jack O'Neill enjoys some climbing equipment at a new community playground at Riverside Park in Raymond on Wednesday. (Gretyl Macalaster /Union Leader Correspondent)
RAYMOND - Within seconds after the ribbon was cut on a new community playground at Riverside Park on Wednesday, a small group of children was already enjoying the new equipment.
The playground effort was led by the Raymond Coalition for Youth, with the help of many local volunteers.
Over the summer Aggregate Industries helped clear the space in the old horseshoe pit during a three-day effort to clean up and revitalize Riverside Park.
Trees were cleared, allowing parents to see their children from the open stage area, gardens were cleaned and the path to the dog park was re-graded.
The playground installation was the latest upgrade to the park. The Riverside Park committee is working now to bring water to the park for visitors' dogs to drink and for future community gardens.
RCFY's executive director, Celeste Clark, said the playground will provide a fun, safe place for families to enjoy the outdoors and time together.
She and others also hope it helps increase traffic to the park, which she hopes will reduce vandalism and other "mischievous" behaviors.
"This is great. Now he'll force me to come," parent Jen O'Neill said as her five-year-old son, Jack, played in a nearby sand pit complete with toy trucks, gravel, rocks and sandy paths created in honor of Aggregate's efforts to help reclaim the park.
"I think the park will be used a lot more now," Jen O'Neill said.
Kevin Bostaph, Jr. also raved about the new playground as his 10-year-old son swung himself across a set of monkey bars.
"It's great, especially where you know all the kids will stay in a general area. They had plenty of space to run and play (before) but they were all over the place," Bostaph said.
He also commended the volunteer effort behind the playground and park clean up.
"I think it's incredible what people volunteer to give, especially in this economy. Nobody's got time anymore," Bostaph said.
Clark said the idea for the park came from a talk that focused on the need for more family-friendly places to go in Raymond.
RCFY led grant-writing efforts and received assistance from Lowe's "Make America Beautiful" program as well as from Walmart and the Olson Trust.
Volunteers from Aggregate Industries' Raymond quarry installed the equipment.
Riverside Park committee member Lisa Hutchins was also instrumental in the effort. She offered excavation equipment and rallied the Aggregate crew to help her with the work.
"It was an underutilized space before," Clark said. "It was little hidden gem in Raymond that is going to shine a little more now."
"It really is a community effort," town manager Craig Wheeler said. "Everybody came together: citizens, businesses, government, to make it work and the results are wonderful."
Wheeler said he cannot wait to bring his grandchildren to the park now.
"Simple things can make a big difference," he said.
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