Playground Site Plan Nears Approval, Equipment Will Ship Soon

In January, A Playground for Walker submitted our site plans for review by the City. In March, the City requested (thankfully!) minimal changes to the plan. We incorporated those changes and re-submitted our plan on March 26. While the City has 45 days to review the changes, given how small they were, we anticipate we will have approval sooner. In addition to approval of the site plan, there are several required steps, such as purchasing nutrient credits to offset land disturbance, we are working with the City to complete.

In an update last autumn, we asked supporters to contact the City Engineer and Director of Public Works to ask that they provide assistance in mitigating the costs of requirements that had been added to our project due to City property not being up to current Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. We are glad to report that David Brown and Jack Dawson did provide subsequent assistance in advising on our site plans in order to limit the costs. Thank you, Mr. Brown and Mr. Dawson!

Our current challenge is securing a contractor for the project. The project is two-fold: 1) the playground, and 2) the ADA pathway that leads to the playground from the parking lot shared by Crow Rec Center and Walker. (You can read more here about the growth of the project from installing a playground to updating the pathway and parking lot.) The playground installation is being overseen by MTS Recreations. A separate contractor is needed to oversee the ADA pathway and the erosion and stormwater management aspects of the site plan.

A local nonprofit that coordinates pro-bono and reduced-rate construction services had given preliminary approval for helping A Playground for Walker with the ADA and erosion and stormwater management. Last week, due to internal reasons, they let us know that they would not be able to assist. We are now talking directly with contractors and hope to move quickly on reviewing and accepting a bid.

The playground equipment has been manufactured and will be ready to ship to Charlottesville in May. It may be stored for a short period of time while we finalize City approval.

If you are a general contractor who would like to take on this project, please get in touch! We have funds remaining to cover the costs and get us swinging and climbing on the playground soon.

Christa Bennett spoke during public comment time at the April 5th City Council meeting to provide Council with an update on our project’s status. Watch the comment period here or read the remarks below.

“I’m happy to be able to share with the Council a positive update about the project to build a playground for Walker Upper Elementary School. As a reminder, back in 2018, all 6thgraders at Walker participated in design thinking sessions about what would make their school better. A playground was one of the top things they wanted, and we, parents and the community, wanted to make it happen for them.

The pandemic slowed us down a bit, but it didn’t stop us. In May of last year, we released an online survey to get input on whatkindof playground students and the community wanted. 429 Charlottesville residents took the survey; 360 of the respondents were students, and I think that’s pretty amazing. It was a great opportunity for our students to experience being part of decision-making in our City. I hope that our students do grow up with the expectation that they are part of decision-making, and these kind of opportunities reinforce that for them.

We then held two live community feedback sessions where we narrowed down what was wanted on the playground, and in November, all Walker students got to make the final vote on the playground equipment.

The second part of this project that I want to talk about is our work with the City to make the playground happen, and I’ll start with the ADA pathway to the playground. The school already has a ADA accessibility, but we also want the playground to be accessible to the community. When we went out to the site with the City, we surveyed the parking lot that is shared by Walker and Crow Rec Center and found that the handicap parking spaces are out of code, as is the ADA pathway that leads up to the school. Of course, that’s city property. So, A Playground for Walker is overseeing those accessibility points being upgraded. I should note that A Playground for Walker is funding all of this, thanks to the generous support of our community. 

I want to thank the City for your support. Todd Brown, Director of Parks & Rec, and Chris Gensic, Parks & Trails Planner, have been working with us since the beginning, then David Brown, Director of Public Works, and Jack Dawson, City Engineer, have moved us closer to the finish line. Frankly, the playground part has been fairly easy, but solving the ADA pathway has been very tricky, and it’s added a lot onto our budget. With that said, Mr. Brown and Mr. Dawson have advised us in ways that have helped us limit the cost, and we are really grateful to them. I also appreciate the Council for your support. I want to especially recognize Councilor Heather Hill, who has been a champion of the project and provided a lot of guidance along the way.

I also want to thank VMDO and Timmons Group who have provided in-kind support for the project. I hope that folks will support these businesses that are giving back to make Charlottesville stronger for our kids.

We submitted our site plan to the City earlier this year, and it looks like we are going to be receiving approval for that soon. We anticipate that the playground will be open to students and the community this summer. I hope you guys are as excited about this news as I and a bunch of fifth- and sixth-graders are!

Thanks so much for the chance to provide this update.”

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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