Belleair resident Will Sever, center, helps load up mulch for the new Belleair playground facility during a community build Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, to put the finishing touches on the new playground complex outside the Community Center.
BELLEAIR – It is not unusual to see crowds of people outside the Dimmitt Community Center in Belleair. And it isn’t unusual to see those people working up a sweat; it is a recreation complex after all. What is unusual is how the crowds of people on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 were working up that sweat.
They were participating in what Recreation Director Eric Wahlbeck called; “a community build.” What they were doing was putting the finishing touches on the new playground complex outside the Community Center.
Back in March a pickup truck rammed through a fence and smashed into the playground structure. Although there were children playing there at the time no one was hit or injured. The driver of the truck was charged with careless driving.
The incident brought about the obvious need to replace the demolished playground and it was decided to make it bigger and better than before. The insurance company paid $26,000 to settle their claim, but to make the improvements they wanted, the Parks and Recreation staff had to find another $31,000.
Town commissioners eventually gave the green light to the project but money was still going to be tight. The group, Moms Love Belleair Rec, donated $6,000 toward the project, allowing for a new piece of equipment to be added to the playground.
That brings us to the Community build. The playground superstructure had been installed and attention was focused on the landscaping. A big part of that was the 100 yards of mulch that had to be spread. Cost of having that done was going to be $2,700, and that is when the idea of a Community Build was born.
“We have a great group of teenagers who use the rec center,” said Sara Borger. “Eric Wahlbeck decided to try to gather those people together, and others to help in spreading that mulch and whatever else we could do. He called it a community build.”
Borger and her group got on the phone and emails and gathered a number of people who showed up on Thursday afternoon to pitch in. “We had quite a system going,” said Borger. “Wheelbarrows were flying, pitchforks were flying, it was wonderful.”
What was just as wonderful to Borger was the people who came to help. “Within minutes of sending out emails one man wrote that he’d be here in 10 minutes. Another one said he’d be here in 20 minutes,” she said. “Another resident, who is a contractor, showed up with two of his employees and they all pitched in. And the entire seven person staff of our Solid Waste Department showed up after work to help. They were precious because by that time the rest of us were on our last legs.”
Among those who showed up was 24-year-old Will Sever. His reason for helping was simple. “I grew up here, I love the staff and no one uses this field more than I do,” he said. “Besides, I told them I’d be willing to help anytime they needed me so there is no getting out of that.”
Putting the playground together with new landscaping was the job of Parks Director Ricky Allison. Borger said he has managed to make the area look quite different.
“He was able to do stuff with concrete that highlighted some of the things we already had and never noticed,” she said.
The Parks and Recreation department plans to have an official opening and ribbon cutting sometime in the near future. While a minor amount of landscaping is still to be finished, the playground is complete and waiting for any kids who want to play there. It is open for business.