Concerned parents rally for additional playground equipment

Concerned parents rally for additional playground equipment

After the recent replacement of the aging playground equipment at Sombrero Beach, a handful of Middle Keys moms have banded together to help expand the city’s assets.

“This is by no means an attempt to replace what the city recently installed but rather an attempt to add more options for kids of all ages,” said Sharon Silva, who’s already sought out the informal approval from the City of Marathon.

The newly installed playground equipment at Sombrero Beach saw plenty of traffic of all ages this past holiday weekend. Several parents are discussing fundraising efforts in order to install additional, age-appropriate equipment to supplement the existing structures.

She recently attended a Parks and Recreation board meeting during which she said her ideas were welcomed with open arms.

“If someone wants to help raise money for a project, we’re not going to say no,” said committee spokesperson Luis Gonzalez.

Mayor Ginger Snead echoed his sentiments.

“I’m very happy that upon realizing the city’s budgetary challenges, this group is willing to take on the fundraising for a project that’s going to benefit the entire community,” Snead told The Marathon Weekly, adding that she hopes the effort will incorporate local service organizations to help with the project.

Snead referenced a lakefront park in West Palm that offers a series of progressive playground equipment so parents can take the whole family to one park. The type of equipment Silva’s group is aiming to establish, also known as continuous play structures, is already erected at Rotary Park. But that presents a challenge for families with toddlers, tikes and pre-teens.

“The idea is just to have more variety and more interactive options,” Silva elaborated. “It’s so amazing to watch kids experience the joy and confidence after their mom or dad lifts them up and helps them cross the monkey bars!”

Silva eventually found Vivian Figueroa of Rep Services, Inc. Preliminary designs from the company include not only monkey bars, but also a variety of slides, wiggle ladders, conical climbing apparatuses as well as ring-a-bell and bongo drum panels that can encourage musical skill development.

She reiterated that none of the parents are criticizing the existing equipment – “The new swings they have are awesome as far as accessibility for handicapped kids,” Silva noted – but she and mothers like Catherine Dunn and Stephanie Horvat simply want to see the community involved in this community project.

“No parents that I know of were consulted when this new equipment was installed, so we’re hosting this community forum to help get feedback on what other parents would like to see,” she continued.

Gonzalez applauded Silva in her research efforts for seeing out a vendor that not only designs, sells and installs equipment but also offers fundraising ideas for community-based groups.

“Luis said this could really help down the road when in a couple of years, the aging playground equipment at Community Park will need to be updated,” Silva noted, adding that she’s also received support from Parks and Recreation Director Jimmy Schmitt who’s said that Marathon’s geographical classification as a rural community will help open doors to greater grant funding opportunities.

A handful of parents are already tossing around fundraising ideas that will focus on fun and interactive play – keeping the focus clear on their overall goal.

The tentative sight for the new continuous play set will be between the existing equipment and the recently updated volleyball courts, and Silva added that a sunshade has also been included in the provisional project bids.

A community forum to which all parents and interested parties are invited will be held on Wednesday, July 20 at 5:30 pm at the Marathon Fire Station. Anyone with questions or in need of more information is encouraged to call Sharon Silva at (305) 731-3577.


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