Staff members of Harrison Bay State Park gather with Friends of the Park and PlayCore/GameTime employees after installing a newly donated playground at the park
photo by James Beach
Chances are if you've watched a child make their way down a slide, scooted across a set of monkey bars, or simply let their imaginations run wild amongst the equipment of a local playground, you have PlayCore to thank.
PlayCore is one of the country's leading creators of play and park structures and has been in business for almost 50 years locally spinning out magical structure after magical structure for so many in the community to enjoy. And when one of its employees just happened to show up for a pancake breakfast to raise money for the Friends of the Park Group at Harrison Bay State Park, the magic began to brew.
"Melissa Benson came to our breakfast and when we found out she worked at PlayCore we knew we had a broken slide on our main playground which needed to be replaced so we inquired about finding a replacement. Well, it turned out there wasn't a replacement for the particular slide," said Dean Morgan, one of the founding members of Friends of the Park group.
But in the process of trying to locate a slide which might work, Benson reached out to one of the company's partners in GameTime, a company in business for close to 100 years, and instead of a slide replacement delivered a brand new playground.
"Melissa reached out to us about a yellow spiral slide replacement and we couldn't find one, so I told her we have a full playground in storage if they wanted it. For us, both PlayCore and GameTime , it's about enhancing the communities we live, work and play in. It's such a beautiful state park up here and once I visited it I fell in love with the place. We were more than happy to provide the playground and install it free of charge. Kids grow up every day and we didn't want them to miss out on having something like this to utilize," said GameTime's Julie Gardner.
And with that said, Gardner and a group of installers hauled up the new playground from Sanford, Florida and with the help of the Friends of the Park group, installed the nearly $40,000 worth of equipment a couple of weeks ago.
"There are just so many people to thank for this. Being a state park we generally have a lot of red tape we have to go through to improve the space, and most of it is done through grants, but that usually takes time," said Don Campbell, the longtime head Park Ranger at Harrison Bay.
"Our Friends of the Park group is amazing and they are invaluable to what we provide here. Once they sink their teeth into getting something down, we cut through the red tape pretty quickly. And for PlayCore and GameTime to donate such a massive project says a lot about the type of companies they are and their values," Campbell added.
The new playground sits adjacent to the old one in the state park in an open field and will provide countless hours of play and recreation for the youngsters for years to come. And it's just the beginning.
Two years ago, Harrison Bay State Park was forced to close the swimming pool and plans are now in place to replace the area with a massive park-themed playground and recreation area.
"It will be park oriented specific for us and an asset we can use to bring more people into the park and educate them. We couldn't be more excited about the direction we are headed, and this small playground they donated is really a special and unexpected start towards that goal of providing our community a special place to recreate within," Campbell added.
"They have such wonderful people up here and we couldn't be any happier to have provided the equipment for the kids to utilize. This is part of our core mission and we believe various forms of recreation, play and physical activity are essential to a healthy life balance. And what a perfect place to put a playground up here," said Ms. Gardner.
Added Ms. Morgan: "We have such a great park up here and this thing came together really quickly thanks to Melissa. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to get things done and PlayCore and GameTime went above and beyond to make sure this happened. What a great addition to our park. I can't wait to see the kids enjoy it."