Greenfield's Imagination Kingdom is pictured. While weathered and worn, the playground is a beloved place of play for children. (Photo by Isabella Shepherd.)
Greenfield's Imagination Kingdom is pictured. While weathered and worn, the playground is a beloved place of play for children. (Photo by Isabella Shepherd.)
By Angela Shepherd

Community is at the heart of the renovation of Imagination Kingdom, which initially came together more than 26 years ago to provide a safe gathering place of play not only for students, but also for the children and people of Greenfield.

When Imagination Kingdom was built in 1993, it was by the hands of community members – whether by the donation of time, materials or money – and that will be the same with the new space.

Accordingly, the public is invited to attend a meeting on Monday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the McClain cafeteria to learn more about the new playground plans and how community members can become involved.

Greenfield Exempted Village School District Superintendent Quincey Gray said that while it is school property and a playground utilized by students, it is also seen as a community area and one much-used by community members, so it is important for the community to have a stake in this project.

Gray has also been working on the planning process with the Greenfield Elementary PTO and with principals.

Sue Zint, who was the elementary principal at the time of the Imagination Kingdom’s inception, co-chaired the committee that helped bring the playground to fruition in 1993. Also co-chairing that committee was PTO member Kelly Alexander.

According to Zint, the PTO and staff helped lead the way from the seeds of the “dream” in 1992, to rallying support and researching playground construction companies, and finally to building the structure.

For two days in early 1993, playground makers Leathers & Associates visited the school and spoke to students about what they wanted in their playground. Twelve “key” community members worked with the Leathers company throughout the planning process, and more than $60,000 was raised within the community to erect what was to be called the Imagination Kingdom, a name offered by a student during a contest to name the playground, Zint said.

In early May 1993, more than 1,000 volunteers worked over a five-day period to build Imagination Kingdom, Zint said.

“Raw materials were shipped to the staging area in the back of the playground and each piece was sawed, sanded and secured to the structure, piece by piece,” she said.

The volunteers included doctors, lawyers, construction workers, factory workers, teachers, parents, grandparents and students. Zint said that everyone who worked on the project said that it was the greatest community project that they had ever experienced.

“The building of the Imagination Kingdom brought our community members together unlike anything I had ever seen in my lifetime,” Zint said. “It was wonderful to see people from all walks of life come together for the children of Greenfield and the surrounding area.

“There is something very special about the people of Greenfield. As I have said before, Greenfield is a village of volunteers – volunteering their time, their money, their support, and most of all their love of each other.”

It has long been a point of discussion, the age of Imagination Kingdom and the inability to correctly and safely repair the existing structure as the whole is outdated and the parts just aren’t made anymore.

Demolition of the aged wooden structure and play equipment of Imagination Kingdom will happen within the next few weeks, Gray said, and an estimated build of the new playground is likely to occur over three days in early March.

The take-down and hauling away of the demolished playground materials will be done at no cost, courtesy of community members who volunteered their services, Gray said.

The main area of the new equipment is in a sort of semi-circular shape with other play equipment fanning out from there. The new equipment will be situated in about the same area as the current playground and includes slides, climbing equipment, spinning equipment, a teeter totter, swings, benches and picnic tables, ADA accessible equipment, and green space.

The new structure will also alleviate an ongoing issue with the existing playground, that of there being so many places that are not visible from outside the play area. The new design leaves every place visible, according to Gray and design plans rendered by Midstates Recreation.

The east side of the playground adjacent to the alley will be developed over the summer into a parking area, Gray said, and is “another way that we are thinking of the community and families, as parking is a definite need.”

Anyone that is interested in how they can help is welcome to attend the meeting on Dec. 9 or call the school’s central office at 937-981-2152, then choose the superintendent’s option from the numerical choices.

“Our district is excited to provide our elementary students and all children in our community a safe environment in which they can play,” Gray said. “The Imagination Kingdom has provided much joy for many years, and we hope to be able to continue that tradition with the renovated playground.”