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Made in the shade

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

More than 100 members of the island community, most of them children taking part in the Rec Center’s “Fun Days,” gathered at Sanibel Community Park on Monday morning to take part in a dedication ceremony of the facilities’ three new mesh canopy coverings.

Made possible through the efforts of longtime leader of the Sanibel Little League, Dick Muench, members of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club Foundation, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank and the City of Sanibel, the individual awnings cover a combined total of 2,280 square feet.

According to Muench, the park has become a favorite for both locals and tourists throughout its first year. However, he was among many people concerned about users of the playground facilities during the hot summer months.

“I heard about a reading that they took of a plastic swing seat in Cape Coral, and it measured 132 degrees,” said Muench.

Sanibel Community Park, located at 2221 Periwinkle Way adjacent to the Sanibel Community House, contains a playground with a jungle gym and slides, a pavilion with picnic tables, a shuffleboard court, a sand volleyball court, open green space, bicycle racks and restrooms. It also connects to the shared use path system.

Originally dedicated in April 2008, funding for the 2.6-acre park was provided by the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program in a grant amount totaling $361,236, while an additional $298,841 came from Community Park and Regional Park Impact Fees.

But there was not enough money to pay for adding shades at the park’s playground. That’s when Muench, local Kiwanians and the bank stepped in.

“After I retired from the Little League, I had some money left over in my checkbook after 35 years,” said Muench. “My wife asked me what we should do with that money, and I decided that we should give ‘X’ amount to the Little League, another amount for the new concession stand and whatever was left over to the community.”

Muench researched what it would cost to cover the playground area at Sanibel Community Park, and the bid which was accepted totalled approximately $32,000. Another $1,000 was budgeted for padded bumpers to be placed upon metal posts incorporated within the playground, an extra safety measure for children.

On Monday, Sanibel mayor Mick Denham led the dedication ceremony. He was helped by about 30 kids from the Rec Center in revealing the plaque located at the entrance to the playground.

“Dedicated to the laughter of our children, smiles for our mommies and daddies, and hugs from our grandmas and grandpas as Sanibel’s families gather here for fun and play,” Denham read from the plaque.

“This is a total feeling of what a community really is,” said Mark Tesoro, representing Sanibel Captiva Community Bank. “It shows the dedication of an entire community, and that not only the kids can play nice but the adults, too.”

Also in attendance were Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, councilman Marty Harrity and City Manager Judie Zimomra. Dilly bars were provided by Dairy Queen and bottled water by Billy’s Rentals.

Following the dedication ceremony, children raced around the playground’s facilities, ate boxed lunches and enjoyed a warm spring day, made more comfortable by the newly-provided shade.

“We noticed (the shades) when we first drove up,” said Julie Wicklund, visiting with her family from Minneapolis, Minn. “My husband said he didn’t remember them from our trip here last year. It’s a very nice addition to the park.”