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La Jolla Shores playground alive with children again

The fence came down and the children came in.

Within minutes of the construction fence coming down Friday on the ocean-themed playground at La Jolla Shores’ Kellogg Park children were swinging, hanging, dangling, sliding, jumping, climbing and just having a grand old time.

An excited Jim Heaton, who heads the La Jolla Shores Association, said a short time later that youngsters were lined up to play, with about 50 already all over the equipment.

“It’s amazing to see what we’ve accomplished in a year,” he said, adding that he couldn’t keep his own son and a friend off the new playground.

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They could pretend to be riding personal watercraft, giving first aid, standing watch in the lifeguard tower or learning about rip currents and wave heights.

Soon they’ll be able to climb atop a lifesize replica of J.J., the gray whale rescued and rehabilitated by SeaWorld trainers. (Read next week’s La Jolla Light for more about J.J. and D. Lynn Reeves, the sculptor who is giving new life to J.J.)

The sparkling blue playground equipment, supplied by Coast Recreation Inc., a Minnesota-based playground equipment manufacturer, was unofficially unveiled the day before the Fourth of July at Kellogg Park.

In the early 1990s, the Friends of Kellogg Park raised $125,000 to purchase and install play structures on the Shores beach. That equipment was removed by the city due to disrepair, liability and maintenance issues in 2008 just weeks ahead of the city’s summer moratorium that prohibits any construction between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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This year, the Friends of La Jolla Shores launched a new community fundraising effort to generate revenue to buy new playground equipment for the playground at the south end of the park.

Mary Coakley, who previously had led the effort to create The - an in-ground sculpture depicting Shores marine life - spearheadeded establishment of the 501c3 nonprofit group. That nonprofit began accepting donations for the project, and also arranged a supervised three-day “community build” using locals to erect playground equipment and save $23,000.

On Friday, she was still bubbling about the excitement at the moment of the opening.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “It was slammed with kids.”

The kids waited patiently as the fencing company worked, being respectful of a request to stay out of the way until given the “all clear,” Coakley said.

“Once we said OK, they were all over it.”

The last minute scurrying to get the park open for the July Fourth weekend took a lot of patience to accommodate the city’s requirements for access and some very hard work on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It wasn’t easy, but it was worth every single minute to see the smiles on the children’s faces,” she added, noting that the playground was teeming with kids on Friday as well.

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Coakley gave credit to all of the volunteers who helped but singled out a few people:

“Co-chairs Tory Gulley and Greg Salmon, along with the rest of the Friends of the Kellogg Park Playground Committee members who worked tirelessly to see this project through, and of course the donors who made the playground a reality,” Paula Selby, who spent the last five months creating the artwork for the project; Ron Gimmell of Sunset Cliffs Bobcat, who brought his equipment to get the sand in place and ready for play, and

Brad Storey, a community member “who helped make it happen.”

Coakley said she’s working now to get the plaques up for donors on The Map project but needs people who donated to either call her at (619) 840-0250 or e-mail her at coakelym@san.rr.com with how they would like their names posted.