George F. Duffey Park will soon be a swinging place. On March 5, “Professor Playground” Wally Sealok, his foreman and a three-man crew from the Placerville Public Works Department were using a Bobcat to drill footing holes in the park soil, preparing to install more than $30,000 of playground equipment.
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The equipment was donated by the Placerville Kiwanis Club and will be suitable for both 2-5 year olds and for older children.
“The design is like a clover-leaf,” said Sealok. “The equipment for the 2-5 year olds will be near the entrance so they don’t have to go across the play area for the older children. A different structure for older children with more challenging equipment will be towards the rear of the park.”
Swings — two bucket swings for young children and two belt-type swings for the older children — are in a separate area between the tot lot and the equipment for older children.
“Swings are always great, but they need space for the to-and-fro action that doesn’t come into conflict with other playground traffic,” said Sealok. Engineered wood fiber chips cushion any landings high fliers might make. “The loose fill is more nature-like and has an organic feel to it,” said Sealok. “It’s also easier on the budget.”
Budget concerns are why the Kiwanis became involved in the project. In 2012, Community Services Director Steve Youel spoke to community organizations, hoping to generate interest in donating some pieces of playground equipment to the recently completed park.
“I had been thinking that our community needed more opportunities for kids to play,” said Placerville Kiwanis President Lori Warden, “and we wanted to do something significant for the community.”
Kiwanis decided to purchase all the playground equipment. “It was consistent with our mission to serve children, one community at a time, ” said Placerville Kiwanis President-elect Paul Zappetini. “There is an apartment complex near the park and a lot of children live in that area.”
Sealok, owner of Professor Playground, a playground specialist firm in the Bay Area, is from El Dorado County and graduated from Ponderosa High School in 1999. “I’ve worked at Sugar Loaf Fine Arts Camp as a counselor for over a decade and know Paul Zappetini because he is on their board of directors. He contacted me to see if I could help out.”
Sealok’s main supplier of playground equipment, Playland, was having a substantial promotional sale and Sealok, Youel, Zappetini and Warden worked together to purchase equipment that would meet the needs and design of the park. “Originally, one large structure that would have cost $60,000-$80,000 was planned,” said Sealok, “but the cloverleaf with separate areas lends itself to use by multiple age levels.”
The city agreed to pick up the installation costs and to keep the costs low. Sealok agreed to work with city crews to do a supervised installation.
The park, at the corner of Pleasant and Arizona streets, has been in the plans since 1998. It was part of the Cottonwood Project, a conditioned subdivision project. The phased development was lost to foreclosure before the park and two other sections of the project were completed, but the lender agreed to give $98,000 toward the park’s development.
The park is named for Placerville resident George Francis Duffey, who owned and operated the Placerville News Co. from 1955 to 1998. The News Co. celebrated its 100th year in business in 2012.
A sign matching the current George F. Duffey Park sign, will be added in recognition of the Placerville Kiwanis contribution. As finances become available, a drinking fountain, bike rack and three benches will be added. Because the park is a neighborhood park, not a regional park, no restrooms are planned and access is from Pleasant Street or Arizona Street, which is blocked off from vehicle traffic.
“When the developer planned the park, there was an agreement not to create a lot of traffic for Pleasant Street, which is almost a one-way street so Arizona Street will remain closed,” said City Manager Cleve Morris. “It’s a neighborhood park and most people will be walking to it.”
Kiwanis children’s clubs — Key Club and the Builders’s Club— will be helping with park maintenance.
“Our whole mission is about kids — empowering them and teaching them to give back,” said Warden. “This project gives our Key Clubs and Builder Clubs a great connection too — doing something for kids in the community.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.