Islanders make a trainload of donations to Mercerdale Park playground renovation project

Mercer Island Preschool Association leads the way.

A trainload of community members have answered the whistle for donations to the Mercerdale Park playground renovation project.

With the Mercer Island Preschool Association (MIPA) initially stepping forth with a $20,000 donation, others on the Island followed the nonprofit organization’s lead during its fundraising effort by chipping in with an additional $34,200 toward the “Train Park” project. On Sept. 30, former MIPA vice president of advocacy Ashley Hay dropped off the $54,200 check to the city.

The Rotary Club of Mercer Island donated $5,000 through a grant for the renovation and other locals donated $100 or more. People can also purchase benches on which to add personalized plaques.

“It was really wonderful to see the community support for this project, and it’s the first inclusive playground that we will have,” said Hay, adding that there’s an inclusive playground in Bellevue and some in other neighboring cities.

The playground, which will be ADA-accessible and welcoming to people of all ages, is set to feature a miniature train in addition to new play equipment, drainage and a play surface, according to a previous Reporter story. In May, city council voted to accept the playground renovation project proposed design and approve the amended project budget of $843,000.

“For a playground to truly be inclusive, it means everybody can play there. Everybody, from any type of disability, to people who might need a space to kind of calm down and have a more quiet space,” said Hay, adding that MIPA members and residents attended city project meetings and advocated for the inclusive playground design, which required some additional funding for the necessary improvements.

According to City Manager Jessi Bon in her late August report, delivery of the new playground equipment was delayed because of a fire at the manufacturer’s factory and was slated to arrive on the Island in October.

The 5,000-square-foot playground was shuttered in January partly because the 19-year-old equipment was no longer usable. The city also had safety concerns regarding persistent standing water from clogged drainage by decomposing wood chips.

Hay, who has children in kindergarten and third and fourth grades at St. Monica Catholic School, said the MIPA donation was derived from its reserves. Contributing to the Mercerdale project continues MIPA’s robust history of giving financial donations and advocacy to playground remodels at other Island parks, such as Luther Burbank Park and “Rainbow Park.”

Centrally located Mercerdale Park draws people in with its open space for walking, playing and meeting with others, said Hay, who is not on the MIPA board this year but remains a member of the organization.

And then there’s that pint-sized train, which is vital to the community, she said.

“That train has just been so special to people for generations,” Hay added. “I know there’s grandparents on the Island that remember taking their kids to it, and so they’re keeping that train theme.”

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