An artist’s rendition shows the ferry boat playground structure and adjoining features. (Image courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park Recreation District)

An artist’s rendition shows the ferry boat playground structure and adjoining features. (Image courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park Recreation District)

Setting a course for fun: Park renovation may include ferry boat play structure

Hard to believe, but true: Not too long in the future, you’ll be able to climb aboard a ferry in Battle Point.

Just for fun, of course.

As fundraising and planning for the renovation of the KidsUp! playground at Battle Point Park continues, the KidsUp! committee had been exploring a plan to build and install a children’s play structure that looks like a Washington state ferry.

The ferry boat structure would be incorporated into recycled parts of the original castle-like KidsUp! playground that was built in 2001.

“We’ve been casting about for a concept for that playground that would match with the old design,” said Douglas Slingerland, park services manager for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, and one that would feature plenty of opportunities for “adventure-style” fun.

The ferry boat centerpiece evolved from an earlier idea to make a giant play toy that resembled a pirate ship, which would have been a nod to Bainbridge’s history of tall ships and wooden shipbuilding.

The prototype for the pirate ship, however, soon found itself walking the plank.

“When we got to look at the actual execution of the pirate ship, it looked nothing like a pirate ship,” Slingerland recalled.

Instead, it looked like a collection of tall metal poles and panels.

The pirate ship idea began to sink, until someone on the KidsUp! committee offered a suggestion that got all hands on deck.

Slingerland recalled the ship switcheroo: “Those are just metal panels and poles — and what it really could be is a ferry boat.”

“We all sat in stunned silence, then said, ‘Yes, it could!’”

The concept was refined by Landscape Structures, Inc. into something that matched the

iconic Washington state ferry boats, and it was anchor’s aweigh for islanders working on the playground renovation.

“They really captured what our ferries look like,” Slingerland said.

The concept is still being developed, he added, but the structure currently looks to span about 30 feet. There will be ramps to make the upper deck and pilot’s house area accessible to all, with “boarding bridge” ramps on both ends of the boat.

Kids will also be able to ride their tricycles onto the “car deck” on the bottom of the boat structure, and their will also be climbing bars, a roller slide, periscopes and a telescope on board.

Other features include a spinning globe nearby, two swing sets, and a seascape that may have islands with benches for parents with orca sculptures nearby.

The concept hasn’t been finalized, Slingerland noted, and the budget available to finish the renovation will be a factor.

So far, the budget appears to be anchored at roughly $600,000.

Direction from the committee on the project is essential, Slingerland said, and the renovation may be broken into phases.

The amount raised for the project will dictate which elements will stay in the plan.

“It’s full speed ahead on fundraising right now,” he said.

Slingerland said the makeover of the iconic KidsUp! tower park at Battle Point has been guided by community surveys that were done last year.

“What we heard back, the parents really like the adventure of kids being able to go in and out of little passages and being able to climb on things.”

Park board members were briefed on the project at their last meeting, and they like the idea that the ferry would be accessible to children of all abilities.

Commissioners are watchful, he added, of making sure the structure doesn’t interfere with some of the some of the existing sight lines for park visitors. “There were really positive; they really liked the idea of getting the ferry in there, and keeping the original tone of play.”

“Everybody has been excited about it, even people without kids,” he added.

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