Community questioning Kids Kove future

Over the past 18 years, thousands of kids have run, jumped, skipped, and scurried through the Kids Kove playground.

It took a community effort to build it. Now, possible plans to improve or remove Kids Kove at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center has a lot of people talking.

Over the past 18 years, thousands of kids have run, jumped, skipped, and scurried through the Kids Kove playground.

The structure was slated for evaluation by parks and recreation commissioners in a couple years.

Carter's Kids, founded by Traverse City native Carter Oosterhouse, approached the county about putting up a new playground somewhere in Traverse City. The non-profit organization builds playgrounds around the country. They have helped build three playgrounds in northern Michigan in the past three years.

County leaders decided to take a closer look at Kids Kove.

â??We all of a sudden got thrown headfirst into it,â?? said Alisa Kroupa, Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation President. â??Now we are in the process of finding out the current condition of the playground, what the condition will be, a timeline for it, and what kind of maintenance problems there are with the playground right now and why we've had problems with it deteriorating.â??

The community project was started in 1996 by Lynne Sutherland.

â??It only happens because families give five bucks, and they give you $30 to have their daughterâ??s name put on the spindle. You know everybody in the community's invested in it,â?? said Sutherland. â??It's a great structure. A lot was put into it. We were there to watch it be built and we know that it's sturdy and strong.â??

The parks and rec commission knew the structure would need to be refurbished at some point

â??We need to get an idea of what our costs are, not only to upgrade the facility and make sure it's to code and in good shape for kids to use, but to give us an idea for budgeting in the future as far as having the appropriate amount of money to maintain it so it doesn't fall into disrepair again,â?? said Kroupa.

â??With Carter's background and being from Traverse City, if we could build one here: great,â?? said Quay Chilcott, Executive Director of Carterâ??s Kids. â??If the funds are not available or if nobody wants it, great. Weâ??ll build it somewhere else. We view Carter's Kids as a vessel to build it and bring awareness if it's something that people want.â??

When the non-profit reached out to the county, it was told the Civic Center was an option.

â??We just build. We don't make those decisions whether something is too old or not. They own the land and they make those decisions,â?? explained Chilcott.

Word that Kids Kove could be replaced raised red flags among past project workers and current park goers.

â??I have never had issues, I don't think,â?? said Ashley Wood of Traverse City. â??I like it. I love it. I love the fact that everybody's helped put it together.â??

â??I think that they should maybe just put money into fixing some of the little things and that would be more cost-effective,â?? said Amber Stewart of Traverse City.

â??I hate to see a hasty decision made in having Kids Kove removed,â?? said Sutherland. â??We just want to get it brought back up to code and brought back up to what it was. It can be enhanced. 18 years of life on anything -- it needs updates.â??

â??It's a unique play structure. It has a lot of great memories for people in the area. Ultimately, my job at the county is to make sure we're providing a safe place for kids to play,â?? explained Kroupa. â??We hope to offer up alternative ideas to where it could be.â??

The county's liability insurance carrier is going to inspect the playground Saturday.

The county will also go through with the facilities manager to get a feel for where things stand.

They will likely hold a meeting with Carter's Kids to update them on the situation.

The Parks and Recreation Commission meets Thursday to discuss the playground's future. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Governmental Center.

Kroupa is asking for feedback from community members.

â??The idea of a volunteer group that is willing to reform and work with us it really is exactly what we want. They are a dedicated passionate group that was able to pull off quite the feat 20 years ago and I think they could do it again.â??

You can find more information on the effort to preserve Kids Kove on their website.