September 11, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Kids as young as five will have the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro by the end of October, if all plans for the Friendship Park playground run accordingly.
"It's a big rock climbing element," Aaron Whatley said, Park Maintenance Crew Leader for Orion Township. "The kids can traverse across it. It helps with dexterity and imagination climbing up the rock face."
The Orion Township board approved the design created by recreation equipment company Miracle Midwest on September 3.
The plastic boulder Mt. Kilimanjaro is only one of the elements the company will construct, including three mega-towers, cool bridges and a sand pit called Phase Two where young archaeologists can unearth dinosaur bones.
The township board gave Miracle Midwest the blueprints of the previous community built playground, thus the new playground is very similar in size and character.
It follows a "naturalistic theme," composed of composite materials—plastics and metals—to mimic the wooden structure from before which laid to rest because of rotting areas and other outdated safety elements July 13.
"The goal of this will to be an awesome play structure for 30-plus years with that same awe-inspiring look to it," said township supervisor Chris Barnett.
The mega-towers are triple-deckers almost 25 feet high, a big demand from Orion youth.
"From what I heard they like big things, big slides and big towers they can climb," Barnett said. He interviewed Orion campers this summer and got an ear-full. "That's kind of why we picked this vendor, because they have the mega-tower, the tallest tower made right now in the playground industry. It will be one of the biggest structures in the area."
Lindon Potter, a Stadium Elementary student, is most excited for the monkey bars, which are not just the typical hand-over-hand.
"There's a thing with a circle around it where you can just grab on and go around in circles," he said.
Dave Tooley, sales manager for Miracle Midwest by day, and an assistant Lake Orion varsity football coach by night, stepped forward after people began contacting him left and right when the previous structure was torn down.
He is getting Orion Township a discount on the new playground, which will be more than $250,000. The township budgeted $350,000 this year for park improvements.
"We didn't necessarily foresee spending this much on this project at the time, but we are finding that a lot of people that rent our parks are renting it because of the play structure that is no longer there," he said.
People come from all over to use the Friendship Park play structure, from Royal Oak to Brandon to Clarkston, and were devastated when they arrived and saw it torn down earlier this summer.
The township would like to get the community involved.
"We were going to look to potentially have a community build for some of the smaller structures. That was what we did with the old structure we had. But this one is obviously very tall so we need special equipment this time," Whatley said.
The goal is to have it up and running before the first snowflakes fall.