Fallen tree damages playground in Tracy Park

March 18, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

John Johnson, president of the Portsmouth Kiwanis Club said Monday he was glad it is the off-season for children playing on the Kiwanis playground in Tracy Park. During warmer weather children can be seen each day, going up and down the slide, climbing on the bars and having a wonderful time. However, in the midst of the downpour Monday, a huge tree came up by its roots and smashed a large portion of that playground, also taking out a park bench.

“If it had not been raining, on most days, someone would be sitting on that bench,” Jack Tackett of the Portsmouth City Service Department said as he surveyed the damage. “If somebody had been sitting on that bench they would have been in trouble.”

Johnson said the damage will be short lived.

“We’re happy no one was hurt, and that it is off-season, so there wouldn’t be kids on there playing,” Johnson said. “We want to assure people that it will be taken care of.”

Johnson said Kiwanis no longer owns the playground as the city has taken ownership of it.

“We just have a promise to maintain it,” Johnson said. “So as far as for the actual removal of the tree, that’s all going to be done by Bill Beaumont, City Service Director. Once that happens, we will be in contact with Game Time, who is the manufacturer.”

Johnson said certain parts of the playground were personalized locally.

“The banner between the smokestacks was designed by our club,” Johnson said. “The caps on the smokestacks were designed by our club, so they will have to be customized. But the other items are Game Time Playground - David Williams and Associates on what needs purchased to get it back in working order, so we can get it back in working order as soon as possible.”

Service workers walked around, discussing what action they would take to clear the debris.

“It must have been root bound,” Tackett said. “The roots were the only thing up there holding it up, and you got soft ground and it toppled over.”

Tackett looked as some of the bars were bent and broken down, and other parts of the playground were smashed.

“It bent up quite a bit of the bars there,” Tackett said. “And some of the toys on the other side.”

Tackett said there was only one thing left to do.

“They’re just going to have to cut it up and get ready to have the insurance (representative) come and look at it, and see what they have to do to replace it,” Tackett said.

Tackett said workers were expected to cut the tree up Tuesday, when the weather is expected to be better.

The playground was dedicated Oct. 31 of 2009 from the Portsmouth Kiwanis Club officers and members after it was built from donated funds. Kiwanis Ohio District Gov. Donald Parker, drove to Portsmouth from Hillard for the event.

“It’s a beautiful day because of why we are here,” Parker said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here … You don’t have to have all the money in the world to do an expensive project, you just have to figure out how to go find the money and get it done.”

The project was not without controversy. It had been put on hold in mid-September, based on a citizen complaint that the digging had threatened the roots of some important and state-listed trees. However, the trees were inspected and when it was over, Kiwanis officials met with Portsmouth Mayor James Kalb, and were given the go-ahead to complete the project.

Kalb acknowledged the obstacles and the fact the playground had been written about on blogs and e-mails.

“This playground was not only discussed and debated in the United States, but discussed on blogs in five other countries,” he said. “On behalf of all the kids that will enjoy playing on this world-renowned playground and on behalf of all the adults that will share the joy of watching them, thanks to everyone involved in the planning, the building and the maintaining of this wonderful playground. On behalf of the citizens of Portsmouth, I want to thank the Kiwanis for their vision, their determination and for their dedication for making our city a better place.”

Johnson said the playground cost $70,000 to build, and the club raised $76,000, with the remainder going into a maintenance fund.

“We will do whatever is needed to get it back in working order,” Johnson said.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.