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Help design a cool playground!

"A colossal playground for island youth is one step closer to the drawing board.Kidsup!, a local non-profit group, has gained conditional approval from the Bainbridge Island Park Board to design an elaborate new play area at Battle Point Park. The play structure is a place where kids can go and exercise their imaginations, said Helena Hoyte-Bierly, a spokesperson for the project. Its like a fort for the whole community, where everyone, especially kids, are an instrumental part of the process.Although the park district has approved the concept of building a new playground and chosen a site, district officials want to see the schematic design of the structure and consider a formal draft before they fully endorse the project.The idea behind Kidsup! is to build an original play area for kids that incorporates aspects of local history and blends different environmental themes into the structure. What makes the project unique, backers say, is how the design process begins by taking the suggestions of children and then turning their ideas over to architects who develop their wildest fantasies into an actual blue print. Kidsup! hopes to build the large-scale play area by summer 2001. They will be working with Leathers and Associates, a New York-based architectural firm that helps groups raise funds, draw volunteers and construct play areas custom-made by individual communities. Leathers and Associates has created more than 1,200 play facilities in the U.S., 13 of which stand in Washington State. Although there is a play area at Battle Point Park already, the structure is old and in need of renovation, said Dave Lewis, park district director.Since the district cannot afford to build a new structure on its own, Kidsup! offers an ideal opportunity to improve the site through a community wide effort, he said.This project meets the needs of kids, the community and the parks, Lewis said.The playground would appeal to a wide range of children ages 2-12, and it will be accessible to kids of all ability levels. The project will combine high-quality new and recycled materials to ensure the durability of the structure, Hoyte-Bierly said.What is really neat about the project is that we do not have a set idea of what it is going to look like, she said. It may include mazes, slides, ramps, bridges, wheels or hiding places, all depending on the kinds of ideas we get from kids and the feedback we receive from members of the community.Kidsup! is looking for material and financial donations, and the group hopes to involve the community in the project from start to finish. Ten committees have already been formed to oversee and organize the development, and Kidsup! estimates that more than 1,000 additional volunteers will be needed to complete the process. The group wants islanders of all ages and different areas of expertise to participate, describing the project as a kind of barn-raising event that brings the community together creatively, and ultimately benefits local kids.Although donations affect the total cost of the project, Kidsup! must raise at least $150,000 to make the construction possible. The group plans to apply for grants and garner funding from corporate foundations, and private sources.When finished, the structure will actually be worth over three times the amount that it cost to build because of the donated hours and material, Hoyte-Bierly said.Kidsup! has designated Oct. 2 as Design Day to kick off the project. The event will take place at each of the island's elementary schools and will finish with an open forum in the evening. Volunteers are needed to help with arrangements, public relations, and finding donated materials and tools.For more information, call Kidsup! at 842-0220. "

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