Seen here in design renderings, a community build at the end of June will yield a beautiful new Rotary Children’s Park, complete with its own pirate ship. CONTRIBUTED

The old park is closed, the designs are in and the dates are set. It’s time to rebuild Rotary Park.

The build is set for Monday, June 20 through Sunday, June 26. Working with Marathon’s foremost design experts in the classrooms of Stanley Switlik Elementary School in 2021, playground experts Play by Design are prepared to lead volunteer teams through a rebuild that mirrors the park’s original creation in 2002.

“Rotary is very supportive of our youth, and we couldn’t think of a better project than to build a park for children,” said former Rotary president Keith Douglass, who was a part of the facility’s original build more than 20 years ago. “That was back in a time when there weren’t a lot of places for kids to go. … We wanted a safe place specifically for small children, and we took great pride in making sure the equipment used and the surface it was placed on would be very safe for kids.”

Though the city of Marathon originally set aside $225,000 in its 2022 budget for the project, Marathon’s parks and recreation director Paul Davis said his department felt it was only fitting to have the city’s own residents leave their mark on a popular children’s destination for years to come.

Custom fence pickets are $75 and may contain up to 17 characters. CONTRIBUTED

“The great thing about this being a community build is that the parents of the children who will be enjoying this park were kids when Rotary Children’s Park was first built,” said Davis. “Now they can be part of the legacy that was created more than 20 years ago.”

The city has offered a bevy of options to support the park build, ranging from volunteer hours to customized pavers, fence pickets and other park elements. Custom fence pickets are $75 and may be ordered by Friday, May 27 using the form found by scanning the QR code here.

Larger sponsorships of individual park elements, from jungle gym bars to a pirate ship, are available by contacting Jennifer Ward at [email protected]

The project is also in search of volunteers of all skill levels throughout the build week. Volunteer shifts run from 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 5 p.m., and 5 to 8:30 p.m. on each day of the build. Volunteers may indicate their skill levels and availability on the volunteer form found through the QR code here. Opportunities range from working a sign-in table and serving food to providing skilled labor with power tools. Childcare is available for parents who wish to volunteer.

“It’s very heartening that an idea that had its genesis a number of years ago still has that excitement for this community,” said Douglass. “The decision to build (the park) years ago was the right decision. One of my fondest memories was being part of that initial build, and I’m thrilled we get a chance to do it again.”

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.