Rotary Park in Marathon is turning 20 next year, just in time for a major upgrade and facelift. The city has $225,000 set aside in next year’s budget. As with the initial build, it will truly be a community effort, starting with design ideas contributed by students from Stanley Switlik Elementary. 

“The experience of having local elementary school students draw out their ideas for the Play by Design consultants has proven to be a huge success,” said Shannon Wiley, the school’s art teacher. 

Colton Huff’s sketch includes castle design elements and a zip line.

As in 2002, the City of Marathon is working with the design-build playground experts, Play by Design. The founders of Play by Design were involved in the first build, though working for a different company. Play by Design’s Lisa Deshano, a designer and project manager, said she tells the kids they are the playground design experts. 

“It’s important to get the ideas from kids. Not only does it help them dream, but it also teaches them about architecture,” said Deshano. “And it builds community, too; I know that when the kids talk to me about the playground, they then go home and talk to their parents.”

Wiley organized real-time virtual chats with Deshano and Anthony Paul Davis, Marathon’s parks director. 

“They came up with some incredible concept sketches in the art room right here at Stanley Switlik,” Wiley said. “The sketches and detailed elevation drawings done by my students were nothing short of amazing.”

The initial design will be revealed at City of Marathon’s Community Park amphitheater at a free public event on Thursday, April 15 at 6 p.m. (Masks and social distancing required.) Without giving too much away, here are some of the ideas:

  • Keep the castle-like curb appeal.
  • Multiple slides (of course).
  • More visibility across the park, without sacrificing kids’ ability to “hide.”
  • More pavilions and family gathering spaces.
  • Some adult fitness equipment.
In recent weeks, the City of Marathon has been patching up parts of the park to make it last until the upgrade. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

As before, Marathon’s Rotary Club will help with additional fundraising and organizing free labor. 

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When the Rotary Park opened in Marathon in 2002, there were very few park options for area children. Both Sombrero Beach and Community Park construction were underway, but not complete. In the following years, Rotary Park became a favorite spot for play dates, birthday parties, and the town’s annual Easter Egg Hunt hosted by the Rotary Club. 

Davis said he will be organizing a 13-person task force to oversee the park’s design and construction. 

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