Walker Students Vote on Their Playground

Walker Upper Elementary students have chosen the winning playground design! We are excited to be working with playground vendor MTS Recreations to bring this fun play equipment to Walker.

The winning design was one of two finalists created based on feedback from students/other community members through an online survey and two live sessions.

439 people took the online survey in May and June:
– 37% were Walker 6th graders
– 34% 5th graders
– 13% parents
– 4% other community members

One of the survey questions had students rank their favorite play activities. They are, in order:
Swing
Run
Climb
Walk
Bounce
Spin
Hang
Sit
Ride
Jump
Balance
Slide
Perch

We used the live feedback sessions, which were led by amazing volunteers from VMDO, to refine answers from the survey. For example, sliding is low on the list of favorite activities. However, when we asked students if they wanted no slides or one slide, they chose one slide.

Next steps: We are working with Timmons Group to create the final site survey and CAD (computer-aided design) that is required to apply for a building permit from Cville Neighborhood Development Services. Thank you to Timmons for donating part of their services!

Once we submit our application to NDS and the City Engineer, they have 60 days to review it. They then give us time to make any changes that they have identified. The city then has 45 days for a second review and deciding whether to issue the permit to build.

Finally, our building timeline will further depend on the school schedule at that time, ie whether students are in school and whether we can build when they are. We are confident that the playground will be built by the end of summer 2021, and it may be done sooner.

An issue that lengthened our timeline is that the ADA pathway from the lower parking lot that Walker shares with Crow Pool & Rec Center is out of code. A Playground for Walker agreed to fund and oversee its renovation to ensure that the playground is accessible to all.

Our agreeing to update the ADA pathway for the City put our project over 6,000 sq ft. The City told us that meant we are now responsible for designing and implementing a stormwater management system, despite the fact that if we were to build only the playground, we would not have to create and implement stormwater management, and despite the fact that the footprint of the updated ADA pathway will not be substantially different than what is already there. The stormwater management system is relatively expensive, adding about 20% onto our costs.

We asked if we could submit applications to build the two projects separately, the first as the ADA pathway and the second as the playground, which would mean we would not need to implement a stormwater management system. We spent several meetings talking with City folks about this possibility but the request was denied. The City Engineer acknowledged that if we had built the ADA pathway without telling the City that we were going to build a playground, as well, then we would not have been asked to implement a stormwater management system.

We were next told by the City Engineer that his office could help us design the stormwater management system, reducing the $15k-20k price tag. While we tried to follow the instructions required to secure that assistance from the City Engineeer, we were ultimately unsuccessful.

With financial contributions from the community, we have been able to move forward with sufficient funding to cover the additional project costs. However, if there are unexpected costs or volunteer labor falls through, we will have to do more fundraising.

City funding has been identified that could be used for the stormwater management, since it will benefit the City. If you would like to see the City route that funding to the playground, please consider emailing:
dawsonj@charlottesville.gov
oberdorferp@charlottesville.gov
blairj@charlottesville.gov

Thank you again to the Charlottesville community, including Cville Parks & Rec and Neighborhood Development Services, for your support in making a Walker playground a reality!

Author: Christa

I founded Community Well to offer community-building consulting services to nonprofits and political advocacy organizations. I work with nonprofits that provide health, education, job, and housing services and with initiatives that promote progressive public policies. communitywell.com

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