“If you build it, they will come.”
Sixteen years later, as families roll out to the 20,000-square-foot playground on warm spring weekends, the words still ring true—though now, from cracked, faded and peeling paint.
Once-colorful towers are weatherbeaten and worn, graffiti has been scrubbed away more than a few times, mulch has been ground down to bare dirt and concrete is covered with scabrous patches of rubberized safety crash pads.
Field of Dreams has seen better days, for sure.
“It’s just really not the same park,” committeewoman Denice DiCarlo said.
But in a few weeks, with the help of volunteers from two township businesses, it’ll be restored to its former glory.
With $60,000 or more in donations from Johnson Matthey and Solvay Solexis, and more importantly, close to 200 volunteer workers from the companies, the TLC the playground has desperately lacked for years is finally on its way.
It took close to a month’s worth of discussions—and toying with the idea of creating an entirely new playground, instead—to figure out what could be done, but DiCarlo said concerns ranging from complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act to state playground safety guidelines have been satisfied, and the playground’s restoration is right around the corner.
“We’re going to bring the playground back to its original state,” she said. “We didn’t want to knock anything down.”
Johnson Matthew and Solvay Solexis employees will handle most of the restoration work, given concerns about the township’s liability, especially when it comes to the difficulty of the work that has to be done.
“Some of the work needed at the site right now is pretty labor-specific,” DiCarlo said. While they’re not necessarily going to turn away members of the public who might want to help, DiCarlo said it’ll be limited as to what they can do—spreading mulch, for instance, rather than running power washers or clambering up 12-foot ladders.
“They really want to encourage their workers to give back,” DiCarlo said of the two companies. “It’s a good sign that they really are invested in West Deptford.”
The final details still have to be worked out, but DiCarlo and Deputy Mayor Sean Kilpatrick have a meeting this week with the two companies to hammer out a schedule.
Work could be underway by the end of April, which would mark the playground’s 16th anniversary, and could wrap up in early May, DiCarlo said.
And though the monetary donations from the two companies may just be a one-time affair, DiCarlo said there's interest in making the volunteer effort an annual event.