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Community effort built BV playground in ‘95; now it’s gone

       For any kids (or adults) disappointed at finding the old playground gone at the Westside Community Center in April, help is on the way.

Buena Vista students relish their new playground the day it opened in 1995.
Courtesy of Denise Guitierrez

       City Parks plans to have a replacement playground installed by the end of June, according to Jake Butterfield, who leads the playground inspection program for Colorado Springs Parks.
       The location is the northeast corner of the 1-block property bounded by 16th and 17th and by Bijou and Platte.
       What neither Parks nor the Community Center knew at first was how the old playground got there.
       That story has been emerging, thanks to a 1995-dated “time capsule” (found by a city worker during the removal) and the recollections of people who were part of the original playground's installation.
       In 1995, the property belonged to School District 11, which had started Buena Vista Elementary there in 1911. In '09, D-11 relocated the school and transferred the site to Colorado Springs for its Community Center.

How it looked in May, with the equipment removed. The city plans a replacement.
Courtesy of Aundrea Fuller

       According to information from several people at Buena Vista in '95, the equipment went in then through a concerted effort.
       “Parents, teachers and the surrounding neighborhood all pitched in,” Aundrea Fuller of the Community Center said she was told by one person she's talked to. “It took them roughly three years to raise the money for it. That is how the time capsule got there. The day it was installed was a big celebration.”
       Now, with all that equipment gone, celebration is not the emotion for three then-Buena Vista teachers - Denise Gutierrez, Becky Stanley and Suzanne Estrada.
       “I'm so sad that they removed the equipment,” said Estrada, who teaches now at Midland Elementary. She suggested that the contents of the capsule be given to the current Buena Vista (now a D-11 Montessori school at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave.). “The items had meaning to our staff and students.”
       Stanley, who taught at Buena Vista 25 years and is now retired, remembers that “it was such a thrill” when the playground opened in the fall of '95. “Everybody put their heart and soul into it.”
       Gutierrez, at West Elementary since 2009, said the effort in '95 was prompted by the poor condition of the preceding Buena Vista playground equipment, which had splintered wood and rusting metal.
       But evidently no sign explaining the community effort ever was posted.
       Even the capsule has been of little help. Fuller said that many of its documents got stuck together because of water damage. She is working to salvage what she can.
       When the new playground goes in, it will be smaller - 4,000 square feet compared with the previous 6,700. But Butterfield pledged in a phone interview that it will have “the newest and funnest equipment,” with similar features as before - most likely including a slide, a climber and swings.
       The equipment choices will be made by his staff and himself.
       Butterfield said the removal was made by his staff based on findings that the previous equipment was “old and out of compliance.” He did not have other details, other than that the old surface was pea gravel, which is not handicapped-accessible.
       Asked about the smaller size of the replacement playground, Butterfield said it's part of his job “to evaluate the uses of a playground, to determine what we can afford and what other playgrounds are servicing the neighborhood.”
       For more information, Butterfield's contact info appears on a sign that a city crew placed on a nearby fence: 385-6523 or jbutterfield@springsgov.com.

Westside Pioneer article