Waterloo playground gets big upgrade

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local

When Rachel Maynard took her two boys to the playground, at Waterloo County Park, a couple of years ago, she noticed that the play structure was not in good shape.
“There were holes in the slides. They had to take the tunnel slide down. It was sad to see the vandalism,” said Maynard, a local real estate agent.
Her older son Zach, in particular, was “horribly disappointed,” she said. “He and his friend would yell through the tunnel slide.”
Maynard contacted the Linn County Parks Department to report her concerns, which, it turned out, weren’t limited to her.
“We’ve had a lot of problems at Waterloo with vandalism to the previous playground that was in there,” said county Parks Director Brian Carroll. “There was severe damage. It got to the point that repairs were costing what we originally paid for the playground. Members of the community came to us and said something had to be done. Rachel Maynard was one.”
He said that vandals had exhibited “malicious destructiveness,” busting out the panels on the equipment in addition to punching holes in the slides. Most of the problems were happening late at night, he added.
Maynard said she noticed other people posting on Facebook about the problems, which prompted her to make a second call.
That’s when Carroll reached out to her, she said. “It kind of spiraled from there.”
Linn County Commissioners had shortly before approved a 3% transient lodging tax on all overnight lodging facilities, from bed and breakfasts and campgrounds to motels in the county, and commissioners agreed to commit funding from that tax revenue to improving the playground.

NEW PLAYGROUND equipment has been installed at Waterloo County Park.
Photo courtesy of Linn County Parks

Carroll said Maynard really got involved right about that point, researching options and working with members of the community to come up with a design for the new playground.
“I did a questionnaire with a bunch of people in the community to see what was important to them in a playground,” Maynard said. “Slides? Things to climb on?” She also organized some fundraisers, including a hot dog feed sponsored by her Heritage Northwest real estate office.
Armed with the results of that survey, she started “hammering down,” shopping for the right set-up, she said.
“My oldest son Zach was 6, my youngest was 4, but I knew it was important for older kids to enjoy as well as younger. The one we picked out is designed for kids ages 2 through 12, with different bridges, several different slides.”
Her efforts resulted in Maynard being asked to join the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission last year, she and Carroll said.
He said they planned to have the equipment ready to go by the beginning of summer, “but everything hit with the COVID-19 shutdown and restart, so this went on the back burner.”
Construction was under way early this month, with plans to pour concrete and put in rubber safety tile before the equipment opens to the public. The new equipment has been moved away from the swingset and under trees, which will provide shade.
The final cost will be between $105,000 and $110,000, Carroll said.
Despite a personal tragedy – Zach, her son, was killed when he was struck by a runaway jet ski while swimming in Foster Lake at Lewis Creek County Park in July, Rachel Maynard has stayed involved and “excited.”
“It’s huge,” she said of the new playground. “The kids can run around it, climb on it, jump off things.”
Carroll said the new equipment will also have “security measures” in place to guard against the vandalism problem.
“The people doing the destruction, what they don’t realize is that it’s the kids that are losing,” he said. “Once it’s unsafe, we can’t allow it to be used. Hopefully, people will take care of it and know it’s important to the community.”