In 2007, staff at Missoula’s Jefferson Early Learning program realized they had a problem. The playground equipment at the Jefferson Preschool was decaying and needed major renovation to ensure the safety of children. When they formed a playground committee to address the issue, the conversation moved beyond safety and toward finding other ways to maximize their student’s playground experience.
The committee decided to move forward with the goal of transforming the site into a “barrier free play space,” where children of different mental and physical abilities would be able to engage and interact with others, take advantage of playground features, and easily navigate the environment. Through the financial and volunteer support of the Missoula Sunrise Rotary, the committee was able to remove all of the unsafe structures and clear the way for a major playground makeover.
Still, the committee lacked much of the financial backing needed to bring the playground they envisioned to fruition, despite the strong support that the project had gained in the community. In 2011, committee members learned of the KaBOOM! Let’s Play Joint Use Grant program, made available through the support of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. They decided to apply for the grant, which provides funding for communities to open school playgrounds to the public during nonschool hours through a joint use agreement, and began incorporating three other school playgrounds within their plans to increase play opportunities for Missoula’s children.