Roxanne Pfiefer-Fisher, a volunteer with a team from Walmart, sorts through sections of what will become a slide during Wednesday’s opening day of a community rebuild of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

Roxanne Pfiefer-Fisher, a volunteer with a team from Walmart, sorts through sections of what will become a slide during Wednesday’s opening day of a community rebuild of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

Volunteers flock to Dream Playground to start build

Group effort reminds organizers of efforts in 2021, 2002

PORT ANGELES — Work has begun to conjure a phoenix for North Olympic Peninsula children as a community rebuild of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles got underway with scores of volunteers armed with donated construction equipment.

The new playground, rising from the since-removed ashes of a previous incarnation at the same site, replaces one that was mostly destroyed by an arson fire on Dec. 20 that left much of the play equipment a pile of smoldering rubble.

Steve Methner, president of the Dream Playground Foundation, which organized the design and construction of the project, said it is exciting to see a replacement getting started.

“It’s all new. It’s very familiar, yet all new,” he said. “It’s the same playground, for the most part, but things change and techniques change.”

Like the current project started Wednesday, the burned playground was built by hundreds of volunteers over the course of several community construction periods in 2021.

That work was done to replace the original, mostly wooden playground structure, also built by volunteers in 2002.

The new rebuild, estimated to be substantially complete by Sunday, will emulate the previous version using a similar playground design.

But this time around, the project is getting a bit of a head start over the previous playground, Methner said.

“We’ve got 50 percent or more of the same volunteers, so it is going a bit more smoothly because a lot of folks know how it felt the first time,” he said. “This time, compared to last time, we have a lot more skilled personnel here to help at the beginning, which is excellent.”

Donations for the replacement project started pouring in almost immediately after the playground burned in December, with about $200,000 contributed to the nonprofit Dream Playground Foundation before the group found out that the city of Port Angeles’ insurance would cover the fire loss.

Significant ground work on the playground was previously complete, with equipment and man hours donated by local construction firms RJ Services, Inc., 2 Grade LLC and Clark Land Office.

Numerous other groups and businesses are contributing time, equipment and labor to the new playground.

Methner said there were the usual startup snafus that plague most construction efforts, but he said he expected to have the bugs worked out with main play structures completed by Sunday.

A specialized crew is expected the week of May 27 to install the padded play surface around the playground equipment, he added.

As volunteers swarmed over the playground site Wednesday morning, moving materials, checking in parts and cluing into the nuances of the build, Dream Playground board member Tim Tucker, who also serves as operational manager for the Port Angeles Parks & Recreation department, took a moment to marvel at the effort.

“It always makes me happy,” Tucker said. “It’s just really cool to watch the community come together and the city come together and create such a park.”

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Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or by email at kthorpe@peninsulanews.us.

Volunteer Gary Kline of Port Angeles cuts boards that will become part of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles during Wednesday’s opening day of a community rebuild. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

Volunteer Gary Kline of Port Angeles cuts boards that will become part of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles during Wednesday’s opening day of a community rebuild. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

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