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Oregon school playground coming down

Superintendent: Injuries up; no way to fix it

OREGON – The playground equipment just outside Oregon Elementary School used to lead to active youth. Lately, though, it’s been leading to injured kids.

That’s why school officials have decided to tear down the Project PLAY equipment that kids have been climbing on for nearly 3 decades.

Superintendent Tom Mahoney said last week that the castle towers, twisting walkways, and slides of Project PLAY (Play Leads to Active Youth), will come down before school starts next month. In the meantime, signs have gone up to warn kids about splinters.

“We’ve had an increase in kids getting injuries on Project PLAY, mostly splinters,” he said. “There’s no way to maintain it and guarantee no injuries.”

The all-wood construction of the equipment, built by volunteers in 1989, is its downfall, Mahoney said.

“Twenty-six years is a long time for something that’s all wood even if it gets treated,” he said.

Project PLAY was the brainchild of retired teacher Nancy Ryder of Oregon, who had seen a similar Robert Leathers playground in her hometown and thought Oregon should have one, too. She and Deb Wuebben were co-chairwomen of a committee that raised $45,000 for the project.

“The idea was to give the children a creative play area — anything that leads to imagination,” Ryder said.

On the other hand, Ryder said she can understand the decision to remove it.

“I’m not surprised that they would want to take it out, because it’s high-maintenance,” she said.  

After months of fundraising, including a Pennies for the Playground drive at the elementary school, hundreds of volunteers converged on the school grounds on Oct. 11 through 15, 1989, for a 5-day build to put it all together.

“We had so many people, volunteers who were good at so many things,” Ryder said. “We had electricians, carpenters, ministers. It was really neat.”

Even grade-schoolers chipped in.

“There was a diversity of ages of the people who helped,” said retired teacher Marilyn Berg, a member of the Project PLAY committee. “We had a nursery for the children of the people building, and food was brought in. The whole community came together for it.”

Mahoney said he appreciates what it took to build the playground.

“This was a community-wide effort,” he said. “We want to show appreciation to everyone who helped build it, maybe with a decommissioning before we demolish it.”

Two playground equipment manufacturers will be consulted about the design of the replacement. No cost estimate is available as yet.

To offer suggestions

Oregon School District Superintendent Tom Mahoney wants input from the community about how to replace the Project PLAY playground.

Contact him at 815-732-5300 or, or stop by the district office, 206 S. 10th St., to weigh in.

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