More than 100 volunteers were on hand to help build Star Park late Tuesday morning, May 31, but Grace Jio was the one to watch.
Even at age 91, the Ferndale woman had spent much of the morning carrying screws and boards alongside everyone else, even as the temperature rose. The sun hung high and few clouds in the way made for a warm morning by 11 a.m.
Jio’s work ethic wasn’t lost on fellow volunteers.
“She worked me under the table today,” said Ferndale resident Kevin Allex, 62.
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But Jio, who said she had turned out to represent her congregation at Evergreen Community Church, was just happy to be outside.
“I’m a farmer’s wife, so I’m used to hard work,” she said, shrugging off the praise from others.
Jio and Allex are among the hundreds of volunteers who have logged hours helping build the city’s newest park on a 12,000-square-foot plot near Pioneer Park since Tuesday. The work is a culmination of the city’s efforts to create an interactive children’s playground.
It’s going to be everybody’s park. Kids can come here and see what the community did for them.
Horizon Middle School seventh-grader Jaxson Pike
Though New York-based firm Leathers & Associates drew up the park’s renderings, the design was fueled with ideas gathered from the minds of local schoolchildren.
And the construction of the park is almost entirely volunteer, with Leathers workers serving as the job site’s foremen, assigning volunteers with construction backgrounds to lead teams of others.
Work on the site began Tuesday morning and is scheduled to run through Sunday, June 5, culminating in a ceremony when the work is finished. Days are split into morning, afternoon and evening shifts, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m.
When volunteers showed up at 8 a.m. Tuesday, holes had been drilled for the nearly 200 posts that would eventually hold the playground’s walkways, but the site was otherwise nothing but dirt and grass, said Larry Mattingly, a Leathers construction consultant.
By late morning, the posts were placed and leaning in the holes as workers began piecing together and placing parts of the walkways.
Ron York, 60, a Ferndale resident and owner of York Construction, was one of the team captains designated with a bright-green T-shirt Tuesday. Leading a team of volunteers to help build a park, York said, was a lot like his day job — with one key difference.
“In my business, we are motivated by a wage or some sort of profit to do the job,” York said. “Here, I think it’s just the love of the community. People come out, they are proud of Ferndale, want to be part of it, want to be part of something big.”
Come late Thursday morning, June 2, the park took shape to a chorus of whirring power tools under a cloudy sky.
The nearly 200 posts stood straight as volunteers placed more pieces of the walkway. Swing-set frames and an artificial rock wall found homes near the edges of the work site as volunteers staged other features, like slides, to be placed later.
In an adjacent parking lot, Mattingly advised a group of team captains building the walls and roofs for some of the park’s small buildings. Though the park had seen progress over the course of a few days, he spoke cautiously about completing in time.
“We’re doing OK but can’t let up because anything can happen,” Mattingly said, pointing to the looming clouds.
But by that point, the park wasn’t short-handed. A group of about 90 seventh-graders from Horizon Middle School were finding work as part of a class community-service project, said teacher Kristle Craft.
“It’s going to be everybody’s park,” said Horizon student Jaxson Pike, 13. “Kids can come here and see what the community did for them.”
For team captain, Ferndale plumber and former mayor Gary Jensen, the park’s construction marked a significant step in providing something the area’s children have needed for a long time.
“It’s kind of like the end of that dream and you look over there and you go, ‘OK, I can see it, I can see it,’” Jensen, 60, said. “It’ll be pretty special to make that drive by here someday and see kids playing and go, ‘Hey, I put a couple screws in those boards over there.’”