Jakob Brown hung upside down on the ropes dangling from the tower. Other children played above him.
“I love it,” Jakob said.
He dropped his feet and spun around.
“Mommy,” the 8-year-old said. “Mom. Mom.”
His mother, Breta Brown, said now that it’s open, they will visit Nikiski’s new playground at least once a week.
“We’re super excited about the playground opening,” Breta Brown said.
And she and Jakob are not the only ones.
About 10 minutes earlier, a wall of parents and children waited, as Rachel Parra, North Peninsula Recreation Area recreation director; House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski; and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre closed the over-sized scissor blades on the ribbon to Nikiski’s first community playground.
“(This) means not a 30-minute ride to a playground for kids; that’s what it means,” said Trish Magee, at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the Nikiski Community Playground.
More than 100 people attended the ceremony and the annual community event Fun in the Midnight Sun.
Many parents said that before the playground opened, they and their children had to drive to Kenai or Soldotna to use a playground. Magee said she’d often plan chores around her family’s playground trips because it was a day-long event.
“We can come just to play and not do other things,” Magee said.
Nikiski’s new playground, situated behind the recreation center, features a tower designed as an XTO Energy oil platform, a fishing community, three other large structures and various playground structures. The legislature appropriated $225,000 and Nikiski raised $100,000 for the playground’s construction.
Chenault said the recreation center, its pool and its playground draws the community together. It keeps children out of trouble and allows their parents to play with their kids, he said.
“It’s things like this that make us a community. … It gives us a reason to live here,” Chenault said.
During planning, fundraising and construction, the community was very involved, said Sharon Thompson, a board member at the recreation center.
Nikiski distributed voting ballots in Nikiski elementary and high school classes, at the recreation center and at the pool, she said. And for years, the playground was top three in the community’s list of priorities.
“That’s why it’s so community oriented,” Thompson said. “Just a lot of the equipment is from all out here. We have the (XTO oil) platform, the M & M Market” — the playground is in the Nikiski theme.
Parra said that was one of the goals was to incorporate the community’s “local flavor” in the playground.
And for Gina Ellis, a mother of five, it is something she is proud of.
She said Nikiski, also known as the “North Road,” sometimes has a bad connotation with other Kenai Peninsula residents. But their playground will help dispel that image, she said.
“It’s great for our community. It’s gorgeous. It just looks nice,” Ellis said. “I think (this is) pretty hot for the North Road.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.