Kids Castle – a community-built playground replacing the 22-year old wooden Playtime Palace in Cranberry Township’s Community Park – was dedicated in a formal opening ceremony on Thursday, September 26. Construction of the facility, which includes three thematic play areas, involved approximately 300 community volunteers, in addition to work by Township Public Works personnel and the project’s contractor.
Donations from Township residents, local businesses, Cranberry Township Community Chest (CTCC) and the Cranberry CUP organization, together with contributions from the municipal government of Cranberry Township, financed the $500,000 facility. Township Supervisor Mike Manipole served as emcee for the dedication.
Earlier in the year, CTCC had asked children from the area to sketch what they’d like to see in one key section of Kids Castle playground. Altogether, 3,600 students from Seneca Valley, St Killian’s and other local schools submitted drawings of what they wanted. Twenty-five volunteers from Sherwood Oaks reviewed each drawing and selected the most popular features for the playground’s design and equipment.
Kids Castle incorporates a series of innovative safety and design improvements, as well as an adjacent restroom which does not require its users to cross an access road, as Playtime Palace did.
Play by Design, a company specializing in large-scale community projects, coordinated the community construction phase of the project. They were supported by six local captains, each with experience in the building trades, who volunteered to remain on site for five days, twelve hours a day.
The design of Kids Castle is intended to evoke the progress of Cranberry Township itself over the past 40 years. The play apparatus in each of three areas was selected to reflect the technology and culture of its time. The Past area consists of swings, climbing spaces, rolling hills, and spring-mounted riding animals. The Present area incorporates the features most requested by the students surveyed, including many of the same features found in Playground Palace. The Future area includes futuristic EVOS play structures, Mobius climbers, a bubble rider, and other leading-edge equipment.
Outside of the time-themed areas, the park includes picnic spaces with tables, benches, and play lawns decorated with stepping stones that honor playground donors. Parking is both easier and more abundant with the playground’s new location, immediately adjacent to paved parking lot on Ernie Mashuda Drive.
The evening before the dedication, all of the students who had participated in the design effort were given a 90-minute VIP preview of the playground. At the dedication itself, ten-year old Bella Stefanowicz, who had asked friends and family to contribute to Kids Castle in lieu of buying birthday presents for her, cut the ribbon.