Children were running and climbing, swinging and sliding as the Home Park and picnic shelter officially opened Sept. 16. Parents and children were already enjoying the new play equipment and picnic tables when the group from the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District arrived to set up for the opening ceremony event at 6 p.m.

Vaughn Elementary pre-schooler Austin DeWitte prepares to step away from a covey of his new found friends on the fire engine provided the park by the Zech and Abi West Foundation. Photo by Hugh McMillan

“This is the first park we’ve built,” said Scott Gallacher, executive director of the Key Pen Metro Park District. Kids ran around and played on the new equipment, or sat at the new picnic tables to eat their hotdogs and cake provided by the park district, as the adults mingled and enjoyed the nice weather. Families continued arriving throughout the evening, and the children were still playing when there were no pieces of cake left, and the cleanup began.

“This is great,” said Jessica Blount of Joemma Beach. Her two oldest children were busy playing on the slide and climbing wall while her youngest watched from the baby pouch strapped to the front of his mom. “Now we don’t have to go all the way to Gig Harbor to find something to play on. We drive by here all the time.”

In addition to being closer to home, Blount is hopeful that the park will become a way of bringing the community closer together. “It’s nice this is here, and maybe I’ll meet other moms. That’s what I’m hoping,” she said. With two play areas, one for 2 to 5-year-olds, and the other for 6 to 12-year-olds, the park is sure to draw a variety of families with children.

Because the park is open all year, Miranda Martin said she plans to bring her four children to play on dry days. “We’re in walking distance of it, and it will get them away from TV and video games,” Martin said.

As Evergreen Elementary 4th grader Brianna Martin reaches the top, Vaughn pre-schooler Austin DeWitte grapples with the lower end of the park’s climbing wall. Photo by Hugh McMillan

The equipment was chosen after a playground committee researched the options and came up with a plan, said Elmer Anderson, president of the parks board. “They helped with the design and layout, and chose the equipment,” Anderson said. “They wanted to make sure the colors were earth tones, and we didn’t want anything really bright for this location.” Bark chips cover the play area, and the slides and other equipment are earth tone colors that blend with the trees and nature surrounding the park. “Many people helped to build this park shelter,” Anderson said. “Some stopped by spontaneously to help.”

One piece of play equipment, the fire truck, is red with yellow trim, and it can bounce and move, as the children play in and on it. Complete with a Fire District 16 logo on the side, the truck was a gift from the Zech and Adi West Memorial Foundation. Zech West, son of current Fire District 16 Chief Chuck West, was a newlywed when he and his wife were killed in a car accident in 2004. “He was an avid skateboarder, and he grew up in the area and was always seeking recreational activities,” West said, “After he died, we put together the foundation, initially to build a skate park.” The foundation, according to West, provided part of the funding for the skate park at Volunteer Park in Lakebay. Now that the skate park is finished, West said the foundation will  continue to support other recreation projects.

“We felt we needed to continue to keep the Home Park idea moving along, so we purchased the fire truck early on in the planning process,” West said. The work was completed through volunteer efforts. There is still some work to be completed. Grass needs to be planted, the remaining fence will be installed, and some barbeque grills will be added as well.

“This is the first of many opportunities for Key Peninsula Parks,” Anderson said.

Key Pen Farmers’ Market a success
KGHP marks 21 years of service