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New Boardwalk is Playtime Empire


The big wooden playground known as The Boardwalk stood on the Kettle Lake Elementary School playground for nearly three decades, a beloved place for students and neighbors to play.

Now it’s been replaced with a playground planned by parents to continue the legacy of The Boardwalk, but with a new design and plans to add more features in the large area surrounding in the school.

Kindergartner Owen Wing announced what he likes about the recently-installed playground — “Everything!” — before dashing off to climb the structure.

“You can get anywhere on it without having to touch the ground,” said Principal Sean McLaughlin as students climbed and crossed monkey bars behind him.

Kindergartner Owen Wing takes a break while playing on the new playground
Kindergartner Owen Wing takes a break while playing on the new playground

The Boardwalk had been in need of repair, but was too cost-prohibitive to fix, McLaughlin said. An engineering consultant found 24 safety-code violations. So the aging structure was removed last summer, making way for the first phase of new development, which included excavating a portion of the hill to level the ground.

A nine-member parent committee worked with an architect on the new design. Parents wanted to make sure the new playground still allowed the same level of imagination the old wooden one had, with places to climb and hide.

“That spirit was what we were trying to capture with the new playground design. It really was a community effort,” McLaughlin said. Eventually, the old, wooden sign will be added to the new playground.

Playground Committee Chairperson Crystal Saidoo spearheaded the effort to raise money for the playground, which will include basketball hoops, a pavilion, an outdoor classroom, relocated garden beds and possibly more playground equipment.

The committee has raised $130,000 of a $300,000 goal, which includes $19,000 from Kiwanis International, $22,000 raised during an auction hosted by Alto-based Wildwood Family Farms, parent-teacher organization savings of $30,000, other donations and district bond money totaling $20,000. Community build days took place in June, when volunteers got busy with installation.

“I’m vested in this community,” said Saidoo, mom to Addison, a fourth-grader and Alexis, a second grader, about her efforts. “You want to see your children’s school thrive.”

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The New Kettle Lake Playground

The new playground replaces the iconic wooden The Boardwalk
The new playground replaces the iconic wooden The Boardwalk

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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