Kellogg Park a volunteer effort


Community building community

Adults had almost as much fun constructing new playground equipment at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores last week as the kids they were building it for are going to have using it.

In a project sponsored and overseen by the La Jolla Shores Association and Friends of La Jolla Shores, new blue, ocean-themed, state-of-the-art playground equipment gradually emerged from the sand thanks to more than 100 hardworking volunteers who donated their services during a supervised community build Friday and Saturday.

They were scheduled to work on Saturday, too, but worked so hard they finished early, said Mary Coakley, singing the praises of those who pitched in.

She was among those spearheading fundraising for the playground gear, the volunteer effort and coordinating with the city. She also was the force behind “The Map,” an in-ground sculpture depicting Shores marine life adjacent to the playground.

The homegrown project replaces an aging playground system that was removed by the city more than a year ago.

There’s still work to be done, Coakley said, noting that a technical glitch will delay completion until sometime in late June.

“We’re going to save approximately $23,000 to $25,000 with the community’s providing the bulk labor,” said Jim Heaton, chairman of the Shores association.

Among the volunteers at the park Friday morning was Jim Kinane who likened the project to “an adult erector set.”

“It’s taken me back to my model airplane days,” said volunteer and LJSA member Darren Fulhorst about the build. “I was a little kid here. This was my beach.”

But the community effort wasn’t all fun. Work was involved, too.

“It looks like we did a lot today,” said Tom Green, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. “Yesterday it was digging holes.”

“Digging the holes was a big chore,” added Brad Storey, who lives in the area and got involved in the project with his wife because it was a good cause. “I was very tired yesterday. It’s been a long time since I worked like that.”

It wasn’t hard for Tory Gulley, who was involved in getting the first playground put in back in 1995, to figure out why she was participating again.

“What a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It’s amazing what we did yesterday.”

Susan Wiczynski said she joined the effort because, when the old playground equipment was removed, it left a void.

“I had a newborn and a 3-year-old at the time and we probably spent every day down here,” she said. “When I discovered the old playground was taken out, I thought, ‘I guess the new one’s coming in pretty soon.’ Every morning we’d come down and it wouldn’t be here. So I finally started asking around and heard that a (playground) committee was being formed.”

Karen Flynn was there with husband Bobby because they liked being in on an effort to improve the community.

“It’s (playground’s) going to be even better than the one that was here before, with more features,” she said.

Mike Eisert representing Coast Recreation Inc., the Minnesota-based playground equipment manufacturer, said the project was a comprehensive effort with extensive community involvement.

“This will probably be the most unique playground in this part of San Diego by far and an awesome experience for kids,” he said.

One of the standout features of the project is that it will showcase public art: a life-sized bronze sculpture of J.J. the gray whale rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild by Sea World. The artist creating the sculpture, D. Lynn Reeves, was at the park Friday to show off a quarter-size clay model of the whale that will be installed at the north end of the playground.

“The effort was to make it precise to the actual specific whale, J.J.,” Reeves said of his work. “There was a lot of work with Sea World, with her original handlers. They were very particular.”

“J.J. will be 14 feet long and 42 inches off the sand so kids will be able to play on it,” added LJSA chair Heaton.

The story of J.J., as told by her rescuers and veterinarian, will be told in panels along the seat wall surrounding the park.