DAVIS — A quarter of a century ago, the people of Davison came together for a common cause and built an incredible gift for the community that continues to create memories and bring smiles to children and adults alike.
On May 18, 1997, after a five-day build and more than two years of planning, fundraising, and building community support, the Davison Playscape opened in Davison Regional Park.
In an interview for the May 21, 1997 edition of the Davison Index, Becky Holt, one of two mothers who came up with the idea for a playscape at Davison, was quoted as saying about “2,000 volunteers have helped in some way, directly or indirectly, with the construction of the facility.
She went on to say that many worked with tools, others helped with food, childcare and other support services.
Holt and Pam Brocklehurst, the two moms who had the vision for the gaming landscape, put up a sign in the former VGs grocery store, which is now Doogie’s Super Center, asking people interested in a gaming landscape to come to a meeting.
Davison’s Linda Harrison said a bunch of people showed up to that meeting and it all went from there.
“At the start, there were about ten of us,” she says. “But it took a lot more to build it.”
Harrison said it was a coincidence that the committee launched the project on her son’s third birthday – May 13, 1997. Last week, her son turned 28, she said.
“He told everyone that we built this gamescape for him,” she said. “We don’t have any grandkids, but I just told him ‘I wish I could take grandkids there, but we don’t have any yet’ but fingers crossed.”
Harrison said the central committee was about 12 people, but the idea really came from two mothers who came up with the idea of building a playscape when they brought their children together to play and realized that there were few public playgrounds available in Davison at the time.
Pam Brocklehurst of Davison said she and Holt were part of a playgroup for their sons, David and Jeffery, who remain friends today.
They and the other mothers in the group were surprised to find that Davison Regional Park didn’t have a lot of playground equipment at that time.
She said that at the time, a company called Leathers & Associates, which specializes in custom-designed outdoor play spaces, had playscapes all over Michigan — particularly in mid-Michigan where she said that they were “riding like mad”.
“We saw one that had just come up in Flushing,” Brocklehurst said. “So I suggested Becky take the kids to Flushing. It’s a bit of a drive, but they have a game landscape.”
She said that was how it all started, however, when they found themselves asking, “Why can’t we do something like this to Davison?”
Brocklehurst and Holt then went to shops in Davison, with their children in strollers, looking for support and eventually they held a community meeting to see if they could generate interest in the construction of a playing landscape for Davison.
“Almost everyone who showed up to that meeting, that’s where we formed our steering committee,” she said. “So it kind of went pretty smoothly. Davison, at that time, had a really strong sense of volunteerism and a strong sense of community. It was definitely a fun thing to watch.
Leathers & Associates, based in Ithaca, NY, guided the group through the steps necessary to raise funds and build the gaming landscape over the months that followed, Brocklehurst said.
An architect from the firm came to Davison and she said he visited Hill and Central Elementary Schools where he talked to the children and got ideas about what they wanted to see in a design for the landscape of Game.
“It was to give the students and the community a sense of belonging,” Brocklehurst said. “If they feel they played a role in it and take ownership of it, they will deal with it, so it is not abused.”
While perpetual care was provided by volunteers for many years, the city eventually took over maintenance and Harrison said she thought they did a good job.
She said she was thrilled to hear volunteers and church groups recently stepped up to help the city clean up the playground and park, adding fresh paint and stain to the structure.
For years, maintenance was handled by four men – Dick Winters, Roger Tilley, Pat Bernethy and Bill Johnson – but they retired from their caretaking role and, sadly, have all since passed away.
Brocklehurst said they were known as the Four Retirees and stuck with nurturing the gaming landscape for years, finally handing over the responsibility to the city in 2016.
In a 2013 interview with the Index, Tilley, then 73, said he saw how other communities were building up playscapes and within a few years they were collapsing and overgrown with grass and trees. weeds.
“We had looked at other (playscapes) and they were going pot,” he said during this interview. “We didn’t want ours to end up like this.”
Not only did they help maintain the playscape, but they also poured their labor of love into the surrounding structures, restrooms, picnic tables, and built a showcase for the local artist’s works. Lee Mick, who not only painted images of old Davison to display in the gamescape, but designed and painted the dragon seen from one side of the structure.
Mick passed away in 2012.
Davison City Manager Andrea Schroeder said the city has taken on the maintenance of the playscape because many friends of the playscape have passed away.
She also praised those who built the gaming landscape and helped nurture it for years afterward.
“I think our community was and still is grateful to the outstanding volunteers who not only gave their time to build it, but also maintained that investment for many years,” Schroeder said.
She said the city’s public works department, along with volunteer days in the park, will help maintain the playscape for many years to come.
The city’s golf outing fund also helps with supplies needed to maintain the park, Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the playscape, along with additional amenities, is the focal point of Jack Abernathy Regional Park.
The playscape is an inviting feature that has and continues to attract young people and families with children, she added.
“Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years. I love that we have a playscape in our park that brings a community together,” Schroeder said. “It’s been a perfect setting over the years, for the little ones to come out and play, and the adults to have fun with them. The outdoor setting is an attractive and welcoming attraction for children of all ages.
Harrison said she was pleased the playscape became the centerpiece of Jack Abernathy Regional Park as it is known today.
Rick Harrison, Linda’s husband, said he too was proud of the project, adding that he had never been part of something the community was so enthusiastic about.
“I enjoyed the build, especially since the whole community was behind it,” he said. “I’m really proud of it.”
He said it rained almost daily for the five days of construction, leaving the site in a muddy mess and volunteers feared someone was slipping in the mud.
But the weather turned out to be a blessing, Rick added, as a few local construction companies had to halt the projects they were working on and workers volunteered to help.
“We had a free and professional workforce,” he said.
Brocklehurst said the legacy of the gaming landscape made her proud of the accomplishment and a testament to all the hard work everyone put into it 25 years ago – and the effort to maintain it ever since.
“I’m proud to see it there. It was our contribution to the community,” she said. “My grandson is one year old and I can’t wait to take him there.”