The Homer Playground Project got started when a group of people — mostly mothers (some with children in tow), a couple of city staff people, and a few folks dedicated to recreation in the Homer community — met at the playground in Karen Hornaday Park in late spring 2011. At the time, yellow CAUTION tape surrounded a number of pieces of play equipment. The tire swing — made out of a steel-belted radial — was so worn it could draw blood.
And other parts of the playground looked like a mess.
By the second meeting, Deb Cox and I — two mothers with young children who wanted to have a better playground for our kids — stepped forward to head up a volunteer effort to rebuild the playground. We didn’t know what we were getting into, only that we couldn’t expect others to do what we weren’t wiling to do ourselves. About 15 years prior, a group of community volunteers worked together to build the existing playground. Our plan was to follow their model to rebuild what weather and use had worn down.
When we started HoPP, I thought it was a project no one could object to. Who could argue with building something fantastic for kids? Who could argue with replacing something that already existed? Who could argue with adding a beautiful resource to our public park?
A number of people came forward against the project. They thought it was premature. They thought the eight-day construction timeframe we set out was unrealistic. They thought our construction week would interfere with existing park uses. They thought we should first figure out issues related to parking, safety and rehabilitation of Woodard Creek before rebuilding the playground.
But a groundswell of public support for the project overcame this disparate — but passionate — opposition. In the end, HoPP raised $260,000 in 12 months. We put 600 volunteers to work building a fantastic playground in eight days. And we showed what the community could accomplish if we put our resources, time and passion towards a common goal.
What I learned is that there are always people who oppose change, even change that brings wonderful new resources to the community. There are always people who think a project is unrealistic or overly ambitious. There are always people who believe we have to tackle other things first or that the city should focus on other priorities.
Now there are people voicing concern about the Boat House project — an all-volunteer effort to build a maritime pavilion on the Homer Spit at the site of the old Harbormaster‘s Office. Here are some of their concerns:
1. Parking: The Boat House, they argue, will take up much-needed parking spaces. The structure and surrounding landscaping will occupy the space that could fit about a dozen parked cars.
But the project has already spurred the city to adopt a new site plan for the area, which creates a net increase in parking.
2. Traffic and congestion: Other people argue that the Boat House will add congestion to an already very busy part of the Spit. This part of the Spit is incredibly busy with commercial, recreational, and charter boating activities, as well as staging for kayakers, families and school groups. Currently, much of this activity takes place in the parking lots themselves, and on the Spit trail.
The Boat House and the surrounding plaza, will take much of this traffic out of the parking lots and off the Spit trail.
3. City resources: Some argue that the city shouldn’t invest in a project like this when it can’t even meet its annual budget.
The Boat House project calls for no funds from the city. And while the city will eventually own and maintain the structure, the building will be designed with extremely low maintenance in mind.
My message to folks who question the value of the project is: help make what you want to see happen in your community. Put your resources and your time into what you feel is most important. This project promises to add a great new community resource to our town and to involve hundreds of people across the community in building the Boat House, which will be a lasting testament to our community’s maritime traditions as well as another example of what we can accomplish when we work together.
Miranda Weiss is a member of the Boat House committee. You can contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or find the Boat House on Facebook.