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Residents will build playground for many ages

About 40 residents will meet at Baybridge Park on Saturday bearing hammers, nails and screwdrivers.

Their task? To furnish a playground that is fit for not only toddlers, but older children as well.

"We'll be there at 7:30, rain or shine," said Carrie Giest, a Radcliffe resident who conceived the idea late last year for something "other than a tot lot."

Giest said she has two children, 4 and 7, who "already are bored" with the playground equipment in Westchase. So when the developers of Westchase offered residents another park, Giest led a campaign to make sure it would have equipment elaborate enough to keep older children amused as well as little ones.

After some research, the residents decided to buy from Big Toys, a Washington company that sells wooden playground equipment that is assembled upon arrival. They opted to build the pieces themselves, under the supervision of company employees, saving about $8,000, Giest said.

"It's a community-built thing to save money and get better equipment," Giest said. Besides, "Westchase is full of people who like to get involved."

Ty Johnston, project director for Westchase, said residents initiated the no-middle-man approach.

"The residents put in the sweat equity," Johnston said, "so we'll probably end up getting twice as much structure as we would have gotten if Westchase had paid a contractor directly."

One of the structures they will build is a two-story town house fort constructed on different levels.

Another "really unique and interesting piece allows children to propel themselves across wooden monkey bars," Giest said.

Divided in teams, they will roll up their sleeves and get down to work.

The 5-acre park is being built on Linebaugh Avenue west of Montague Street. It will be landscaped with native Florida plants to buffer nearby homes. In addition to the playground equipment, the park also will have a sand volleyball court, jogging and walking trails, picnic tables, water fountains and an open-air pavilion with a domed roof.

If you have a story about Westchase, call Jackie Ripley at 226-3468.