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Westside playground's demolition builds new life for community park

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Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 22:01:24-04

MISSOULA - Work hard, play hard rang true on Saturday as a beloved Missoula playground was demolished.

“We’re just demolishing the park, ya know, breakin’ wood,” said fifth grade volunteer Adelle West.

Demo Day means all hands on deck, so even first grade students like Dylan Hardin pitched in.

“I’m tearing some woodchips,” explained Hardin.

Missoula’s Westside Park served the students of Lowell Elementary and surrounding neighborhood kids for 24 years, but the wood is worn and the swings and slides are spent.

“It gets thousands of kids a day that use this playground,” emphasized project manager Nathan McLeod.

As pieces of the park surrendered to old age, memories came back for some of the volunteers. “I met my first friend on the blacktop actually,” said West.

Slated to open this fall, the new Westside Park will offer state of the art play structures for all abilities.

The first step in construction is deconstruction.

“We could have come in here and demoed the playground or just hired someone to take it apart,” said McLeod.

But it was volunteers and neighbors who laid the foundation of the park in 1998, and it’s volunteers and neighbors returning 20-some years later, making way for the next generation.

“Well, today was very bittersweet,” said volunteer Jennifer Edwards.

Edwards volunteered when the park was first built.

“In 1998, A friend asked me if I could draw a dragon and I said ‘Sure, you betcha,’ so we drew the dragon for the dragon slide,” said Edwards.

After years of wear and tear, Edwards was more than willing to revamp the dragon - the second time around.

“I will need to lay it all out and repaint it which I’m actually very excited about,” Edwards told MTN News.

She’s not the youngest volunteer at the park this time around, but if she learned anything the first time, it’s that it takes a community to better the community.

“I remember the feeling of all of these friends and neighbors just working really hard together to make something fun and safe for the kids,” recalled Edwards. “It was just a really good feeling of community.”

Ray Orcutt remembers that feeling too, “I worked with almost 3,000 volunteers in five days."

Stationed at the sign-in table in 1998, it was Orcutt greeting volunteers again in 2022. “Being in a wheelchair, I can’t be out there tearing stuff apart, so I’m reporting here at the sign-in table.

The volunteers may look different, the park definitely does, but Saturday was a reunion Orcutt couldn’t miss. “I was part of it back then, and it’s like a family coming back together.”

Like a family, the park deconstruction brought together young and old. “It’s this multi-generational process that’s taking place,” explained McLeod.

Not just for those present on Saturday, but for the generations to come. “It puts a lot more heart into the park itself,” concluded 5th grade volunteer Abby Toone.

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