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Customized playground being built at AACL

       After lengthy fundraising, grant-seeking and a planning effort that encouraged student ideas, construction of a customized playground started in January at the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning (AACL) K-8 gifted-student charter school, 2510 N. Chestnut St.
       Earth-moving vehicles from the Natural Playground Company are working under a schedule anticipating completion of the main equipment elements before April.
       The facility will include a slide built into the side of a hill, an area with caves and mounds like Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings, a labyrinth, a castle fort, an “elf village,” a butterfly garden, and a design flexibility that will allow future equipment add-ons.
       The previous playground, inherited from Pike Elementary (the original K-5 school on the site, from 1956 to 2009) was over half a century old and some of it was becoming unsafe, Principal Nikki Myers said.
       Adding to the school's sense of outdoor needfulness, the city in recent years had removed the playground equipment from 4.3-acre Pike Park, which neighbors AACL just to the north.
       The playground construction was preceded over the past half year by donations of about 800 tons of dirt. The stuff was trucked in by various contractors and individuals, in response to the school's plea for fill that could be put over the existing gravel to help shape the new playground's terrain.
       Unfortunately, vandalism has been a problem during construction. Myers asked neighbors to be watchful.

Westside Pioneer article