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Community effort built Buena Vista playground in 1995; now it's gone

       Disappointment has surfaced since the equipment in a 22-year-old playground next to 16th Street and Platte Avenue was removed in late April.
       Colorado Springs Parks plans to put in new equipment by the end of June, but the sudden disappearance was a blow for several people who had
ABOVE: Buena Vista students relish their new playground the day it opened in 1995.
Courtesy of Denise Guitierrez
been part of a lengthy school/community fundraising effort in 1995 to install what was there.
       The property is currently owned by Colorado Springs, managed by its Parks Department and used for its Westside Community Center.
       Jake Butterfield, who leads the playground inspection program for City Parks, recently described the change-out as part of a routine staff effort to keep neighborhood parks equipment updated.
       He also said the new equipment space will be a little over half the size of what had been there (4,000 square feet vs. 6,700).
       Unknown to the department, as well as to the Community Center - which is privately run through an arm of the Woodmen Valley Chapel, was the old playground's history.
       That story has been emerging, thanks to a 1995-dated “time capsule” that was found by a city worker during the removal, leading to the recollections of several people who were part of the original playground's installation.
       In 1995, the property belonged to School District 11, which had started Buena Vista Elementary there in 1911.
       According to reports, D-11 installed the equipment in '95 only after a concerted school/community effort, including donations and fundraising events such as bake sales, that eventually covered half the cost.
       “Parents, teachers and the surrounding neighborhood all pitched in,” Aundrea Fuller of the Community Center said she was told by one woman. “It took them
How the playground site looked in early May, with the equipment removed. The city plans a replacement playground - a bit more than half the size of the old one.
Courtesy of Aundrea Fuller
roughly three years to raise the money for it. That is how the time capsule got there. The day it was installed was a big celebration.”
       But with all that equipment now gone, celebration is not the emotion felt by three then-Buena Vista teachers - Denise Gutierrez, Becky Stanley and Suzanne Estrada.
       “I'm so sad that they removed the equipment,” said Estrada, who teaches now at Midland Elementary. She suggested that the contents of the capsule be given to the current Buena Vista (now a D-11 Montessori school at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave.). “The items had meaning to our staff and students.”
       Stanley, who taught at Buena Vista 25 years and is now retired, remembers that “it was such a thrill” when the playground opened in the fall of '95. “Everybody put their heart and soul into it.”
       Gutierrez, at West Elementary since 2009, said the effort in '95 was prompted by the poor condition of earlier Buena Vista playground equipment, which had splintered wood and rusting metal.
       It's uncertain if a sign explaining the community effort behind the 1995 playground was ever posted. The teachers weren't sure; in any case, such has not been evident at the playground in recent years.
       Another unknown is the intended time frame of the capsule. Estrada thought it might have been 100 years. Gutierrez suggested 50.
       The capsule itself has provided scant information so far. Fuller said that its documents got stuck together because of water damage. The materials had been wrapped in cellophane and stuck into the hollow pipe of one of the equipment pieces when the playground went in.
       Fuller and her supervisor, Randy Atencio, are working to salvage what they can.
       As a silver lining, the two center staffers see the playground story as a way of bringing the neighborhood together anew. “It's a great thing, that people still here were actively involved in this,” he said.
       They hope to weave the theme into activities at the first annual Community Center picnic Aug. 27.
       People who may have more information about the old playground can contact Atencio or Fuller at the center at 385-7920 x102.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/8/17; Community: Westside Community Center)

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