By Kim Walter
As the weather warms up, area community members are sure to see more kids out and about, enjoying time with friends and just having fun. But what if those kids had nowhere to safely play?
That is the present problem at Brinklow's Trailer Park in Front Royal. Several parents in the neighborhood recently asked the park's owner what they could do to provide a safe, fun play area for their kids.
Charles Streightiff, a resident and parent, said the decision was made to remove an abandoned trailer from its lot, clean the area and try to turn it into a play area.
"The park owner was completely fine with it since the trailer had been empty for a while," Streightiff said Wednesday. "He's all for making sure the kids have a good place to play."
Since moving to the trailer park a year ago, Streightiff said his four children don't have many options when it comes to playing outside.
"They can ride their bikes around the streets, but I just think we can do more," he said.
In removing the empty trailer recently, some glass and other materials were left littering the lot, and Streightiff said the park's owner was able to clean it up.
Now, the small lot consists of a bit of gravel, dirt, and a few small, plastic pieces of play equipment donated by a resident. While the smaller children can use the equipment, Streightiff said newer, more reliable equipment would "be great for the kids."
As 4-year-old Sonny Alicie climbed the ladder to go down a small slide, the equipment wobbled a bit. He slid down quickly, landing in a patch of hard dirt.
The boy smiled, and ran around to go again.
"This is OK, but I'd like a bigger slide, like the one in town," Sonny said. "I can't wait to have more things to play on."
Several young children took turns on the small swing set Wednesday afternoon. The set could fit two kids and an infant.
"The thing is, we've got a whole bunch of kids are 12 and 13 who are just too big for this stuff, but they aren't old enough to stray off too far or go into town by themselves," Streightiff said. "They need a safe place to play here, too."
In total, the small neighborhood has about 25 kids, with a few more on the way.
Streightiff and the other parents involved in the idea are hoping to get new or used equipment donated. They are also looking for fence materials, and mulch or tire shreds for a better play area surface.
"If we had the money to pay for this stuff, we would," he said.
Streightiff said he hopes to find some equipment that will be able to last for a while, and can handle kids ranging in ages from 1 to 14.
The fence would be helpful, in that it would keep kids out of the street, which is a major concern for parents in the area.
Tiffany Jenkins, Streightiff's fiancé, said people there are aware of the speed bumps, and know to go slowly and keep a lookout for kids running around. "But it's worrisome when someone comes around who isn't familiar with the area ... you just never [know] when a kid is going to run out chasing a ball or something."
The neighborhood is asking for any help it can get. Streightiff said he isn't looking for anything "heavy duty."
"Just something to keep the kids occupied and out of the street," he said. "Plus, they need to be outside. I just want them to be able to play without worrying so much."
Streightiff also recently got the OK from the trailer park owner to install a few signs near where the play area would be to alert visitors of "children at play."
Jenkins said she hopes the play area will be available soon, especially since kids will be out of school just a couple months.
"Like Charles said, if we had the money, we would do this ourselves ... this is the first time we've ever done something like this," she said. "The kids are so excited that they might have a place just for them."
Contact Charles Streightiff at 540-671-8767 if you have equipment or materials to donate for the play area.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org