Step right up: Volunteers still sought for Castle Playground

Rick Wagner • Feb 28, 2019 at 12:06 PM

KINGSPORT — Volunteers for the community rebuild of The Castle Playground are still needed, with preliminary work on the site already underway but the main working coming next week.

Kingsport City Schools, Johnson Elementary and the Johnson Parent-Teacher Organization are asking the Kingsport community and regional friends of The Castle Playground to help with the project at the school,1001 Ormond Drive. Volunteers from the Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse on East Stone Drive are working this week, as are individual crew leaders, including site coordinator Jim Taylor, who will lead volunteers next week. Lowe’s also donated materials.

Pre-construction work began Tuesday, continued Wednesday and will continue Thursday and possibly Friday, weather permitting, while the main playground construction will take place March 5-10. 

After more than a quarter-century, the iconic wooden structure known as The Castle, built in 1990, reached the end of its expected life and was demolished Dec. 21, 2018. The entire student body had photos, including drone footage, taken Dec.18.

“To see our community coming together to give the gift of play to the children of our region has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my career,” Johnson Principal Stacy Edwards said. “Our community is not building the playground, but rather, the playground is building the community. This collective effort will result in a one of a kind playground that will benefit children for generations to come.”

Edwards said that even students got into the project by soaping about 40,000 screws, making them easier to drive. He said all students in the K-5 school helped with that job. 

“Every child will touch a part of this project,” Edwards said.

The new playground, sponsored by the Johnson Elementary PTO, a nonprofit organization, is five years in the making and was inspired by the ideas of current Johnson students with the guidance of Play By Design. The vision is to rebuild a community-funded, accessible, innovative playground for all children of Kingsport. Some of the features include a pirate ship, climbing wall, racing slides and lots of swings. An artist’s rendering can be found online at castleofkingsport.com.

“The Johnson PTO is so excited for the community build to begin. We are beyond thrilled to see people from all walks of life come together for one goal,” Johnson PTO President Ashley Hill said. “Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help participant and build the Castle of Kingsport.”

Edwards said whether you are a skilled craftsman or just wanting an opportunity to improve the community, you can help by becoming a volunteer.

There are four ways in which you can help:

1.) Volunteer: Build the playground or serve meals/drinks.

2.) Donate: Supply materials and/or tools to build the playground.

3.) Sponsor: Provide lunch, dinner or snacks for the volunteers.

4.) Make a financial contribution: Purchase a personalized engraved wooden picket that will surround the playground. The PTO has reached 69 percent of its $275,000 goal. More money likely will be used to replace part of the play surface with either wood chips or a poured-in-place-style surface.

There are three four-hour shifts to choose from. First shift: 8 a.m.-12 p.m. (lunch provided); second shift: 12:30-4:30 p.m. (dinner provided); and third shift: 5-8:30 p.m. You must be 14 or older to participate and 18 or older to build the playground.

For more information, to register as a volunteer, to supply materials/tools or to reserve a personalized engraved wooden picket, online visit castleofkingsport.com.