So… there was this park

I’ve been avoiding continuing a draft on the fire that toppled so many lives almost a year ago. Sorry to say that it remains a draft and I’m still ‘getting around to it.’

Summary.

There was a fire. It was a bug and destructive fire. We had a park. The toy set burned down– and a whole bunch of other stuff made for a really challenging year… and we just got the tip of the iceberg.
So… one of my true heart’s desires is to make sure that if there’s something (or more importantly SOMEONE) who needs something done, I will get it done. After the fire in my neighborhood on June 28, 2016, there was a LOT that happened. Gigantic to-do lists and lots of emptiness. One of the glaring empty spot was where our playset once stood. Being that it was made of wood, there really wasn’t much left of it and within 3 or 4 weeks, the majority of the charred remains were all hauled away.


There was little joy for the vast majority of the 80 members of our association for the summer and certainly a world flipped on end for the 30 local families and 4 businesses, but after a week or so, our grounds crew (who also maintains our member-supported pool) had our pool virtually clear of soot and debris and it was open! (With 27 homes lost- most of which literally shared grass with the park and pool, maintaining the pool was a tremendous task which makes many of us just so grateful for our crew.)

On looking to buy in our neighborhood, the park is a huge draw! When my family of 7 moved into the neighborhood, we knew we wanted a pool. I wanted one directly in our backyard, but my husband not want to maintain it. Finding our house in our neighborhood was the perfect compromise for our family! The maintenance is taken care of by someone else, yet we get to use it almost anytime we want to. We are not big on skinny-dipping or anything like that, so we didn’t necessarily need to have a private pool of our own. it really worked out perfectly for us to have a pool right there for us to use- and it’s a gathering place to meet neighbors and make new friends! We also love being outdoors. Going to the park and throwing a frisbee or playing bocce our activities my family absolutely enjoys! With a huge park right there in the neighborhood, we were super excited to be able to do that practically in our own backyard. Many families love the park and the pool in our neighborhood which causes them to want to buy– just like us.

This was the day we decided to make an offer on our house.
As far as homeowners’ associations go, I have some experience and I was a bit surprised about lack of communication from the HOAs where we live (there are two associations, actually, to be clear– a homeowners association and a park association).  Surprised is code for– not happy. When I feel like that about anything, I automatically assume it’s due to my lack of being informed, so the park association (being the association that asks for quite a chunk in dues) is where I went. I just asked, “When is a meeting that I might come and listen and learn a little?” My question was answered, I went, and I learned. Pretty cut-and-dry. Turns out… just like pretty much any other organization that depends upon volunteers, there were very few, so my husband and I were asked to participate more actively in The Association, which we were happy to do– we actually love any opportunity to help and serve. I think having a couple dozen irons in the fire is how we operate best. I am certainly the first to admit that we’re total weirdos!

After the fire, I got myself into action serving the community as best as I could (I always laugh at that phrase. Do you not hear ‘asbestos?’ LOL). On the Keeshan I need it, I couldn’t hit right in the state my way used to be the place where kids run and play and have fun! I knew something to fix that to and bring some joy to the neighborhood.

Turns out that insurance isn’t that awesome! Maybe you have had that experience too! You pay a lot, but you don’t get a lot. That was certainly the case when it came to restoring our park. Now, granted, I do understand how depreciation works, but when I started shopping to replace our playset, I was super bummed that the comparable sets were more in the $16k range, but we’d only gotten $11k from insurance. Now, our prior set was pretty basic, but it was a good one. Had plenty of choices for everyone. We could have certainly had a nicer set and of course that meant more money. Having a good $27k would’ve gotten is everything we could want or need for all ages! But $11k was what we had and I always operate within my means.

I gathered up a sub-committee to see if we could somehow get a consensus on what the families might like and then see if we can help move the project along with everyone working in their strengths. Some people working on research stuff with companies and others working on some potential financial connections.

We also included some dream big discussion about adding some elements to park including some court sport things that were in the original association plans almost 20 years ago!

For several months, we went round and round with a couple companies regarding pricing, dates, and installation. Wooooooo the installation! They wanted almost $5800! Yowch! We did have some people in our neighborhood interested in doing a community build, but to have it supervised by the professionals, we had to wait longer than we wanted. Our pool opening is Memorial Day weekend and we wanted the playground ready by that time. That company wasn’t available until nearing the end of June, so… back to the drawing board.

We found a company with a little nicer set for a little less money! Fantastic! That company, however, didn’t offer paid installation nor supervised (cheaper) community build. Basically just buy it and install it yourselves. Yo! That don’t sound good!

My husband and I are fairly handy and certainly strong enough to manage things- especially if we’ve got some help. We decide… we can do this!

Set ordered. We wait. My husband got his hands on some plans and even though they seems wrong, we had something to work with.

My husband takes two days off to prepare the gravel in the site and receive the shipment. Thankfully, my husband had a prior relationship with the driver and he agreed to leave the trailer with us over the weekend so we didn’t have to unload it immediately. It took us a couple more days to get to inventorying and unloading and WOW what a load it WAS!!

The first thing on the to-do list was to look for the inventory list and see if we can locate some better plans! In the process of looking for that, we did off load most of the set so the trailer could be picked up and taken away the next day, but our 16-year-old son helped us a bit with that project to make it go more quickly. Here’s one of my favorite moments…

 

My husband called the company and between him and the engineer in their office they determined that the plans that we had didn’t even go to the set that they delivered! No wonder nothing made sense. My husband is figuring it all out and I was off to rent an auger!

The auger rental was part of a trip that included multiple errands, but when I came back the playground looked like Sean Connery & Catherine Zeta Jones preparing for their heist in Entrapment! It was amazing!


There were stakes and string everywhere and every measurement met his military and engineering precision standards. I mean… wow!

I don’t know which part he was more excited about: having this project ready for the kids in the neighborhood or getting to use some fun big equipment! (I swear getting him off that Bobcat was a feat! After another day at it, he had used the power auger to dig 18 holes at a 3′ depth. Would you believe that it rained cats and dogs that night!?! Argh!!! We went down to the park and the work site was a mess! A neighbor did come out and was incredibly helpful in getting some mud cleared out of the holes.

Making a long story short(er)… This planned ‘community build’ mmmmmm didn’t happen. We didn’t have any responses to our ‘let’s do this’ pleas, but we had to move, so we spent evenings doing a little here and there and another weekend on it and the next weekend… We were out and to it by 7am- Spark in one hand and a bag of (mostly) healthy snacks and some key lime cherry rehydrate in the other. Within an hour or so, we were joined by that same neighbor who had pitched in before! It was opening day for our pool. By 9am, one family was waiting for the green light from the pool guy. One hour to go! Woooooo! (For them… We weren’t hopeful we’d enjoy the pool that day, but we’re excited for those who would! To our delight, that single mom came and joined us! Our crew size had DOUBLED! Sweet! The four of us were making significant progress and I ran down to Home Depot to rent a concrete mixer and grab our concrete. We set 14 posts that day and erected a couple structures. Huge progress, but not much more could be done until those posts were set, so it was time to hurry up and wait. Being Memorial Day weekend, though, enjoying a BBQ with our kids would be in order.

After church the following day, we busted out a huge chunk of the work and it was allllllllllmost playable. For about an hour, two more folks joined our crew, which helped quite a bit.

We met up about 8am and made our last few finishing touches! We needed to wait another 24 hours for the next batch of concrete to set. Spreading the gravel evenly throughout the enclosure and hailing the garbage away were the only remaining items to do. A couple evenings one of the guys that had helped us did some gravel spreading. We finished ip the last bit of gravel in a couple hours and moved a half a dozen wheelbarrows of garbage offsite the Thursday after Memorial Day.

At 9:15pm that evening, my husband and I removed all of the caution tape and used our gloves to dust everything off. It was almost a tear-jerker!


My husband the hero! Wow!
(And the. He wheelbarrowed a heavy load about a quarter mile to our house!) total freaking beast!

On Saturday afternoons, we had an hour blip in time to rest between one activity and the next and I just said, thank you Lord Jesus! You are good!

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