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A "Playground For All" sought for Chestnut Ridge Park

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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A fundraising campaign was announced Friday for the construction of the first all-inclusive playground within the Erie County park system. An informational session will be hosted Sunday afternoon at Chestnut Ridge Park, where the desired playground will be built.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says while numerous playgrounds exist among the more than 12,000-square feet of county-owned park space, none are designed to accommodate children living with disabilities or with special needs.

"So today, we come here to announce that in 2020, we hope by the end of this year we will have sufficient funds in place to purchase and install an inclusive playground, right here outside the casino in Chestnut Ridge Park."

The cost of the project, according to the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy, is about $425,000. The county has already committed $50,000 in cash and an additional $20,000 of in-kind resources.  Polymer Conversions and Lawley Insurance were identified as businesses which have also donated toward the project.

State Assemblyman Patrick Burke, a former Erie County Legislator who represented the park and neighboring community while in that role, appeared Friday to announce he had secured $125,000 in state funds.

"It's a gem of this whole community and one of the best assets of the 142nd Assembly District," Burke said, referring to his new representation. "When the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy came to me and said they wanted to make sure this great asset was inclusive to all people, and all children, it was a no-brainer that I contribute and help out."

Once the full funding is raised, more help will be sought from the community to erect the playground. Leading the design will be the company Parkitect, based in Lansing, New York. Representing the company, which has designed several Western New York playgrounds, was Ben Frasier, Parkitect's Western New York project manager. While a date has not been set, Frasier suggests the playground can be built from the ground up in one day.

"We'll need about 75 people, eight in the morning until about five at night, and we'll get everything done," he said. "We'll have plenty of folks from my company out there leading you. We may not be a village or a town but this is a community, Chestnut Ridge Park, so I know we can get 75 people out there to build a playground."

First, the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy is hosting an informational session, Sunday from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., inside the park casino to share information about the project and fundraiser and collect public input.

"To finish (the project) depends on everyone in this community," said Mary Simpson, who is designated to field emailed questions about the playground project for the Conservancy. "We need your ideas. We need your contributions. And we need your sweat equity to help build it some time this summer."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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