A vision which to some might seem simple, spawned from an unusual inspiration – the LA riots of 1992. A tragic time for Southern California, which ultimately would prove positive for this small Central Valley town.
“The inspiration at that time for me,” Splitstone shared, “was simple, a great project to bring people together.
“It broke my heart that people were tearing down their community. We were new in the community at that point. Our children were small and we really didn’t know anyone.”
Splitstone did, however, have her mommy friends from a play group she attended weekly with her small children. The visionary shared her inspiration with the group and from that the idea of the Oakdale Children’s Play Park – which helped strengthen community bonds here when southern California seemed to be self-destructing – was formed.
“My objective was not really for the play park,” she said. “That’s just something we came up with and it really did bring the community together.”
Six months of brainstorming eventually led the women to a one-year plan. A date was set, a core committee formed and sub committees began as they put wheels in motion to transform Dorada Park, to a north side town destination for more than swimming.
A play park which would first be revealed to the community following tireless fundraising and a five-day build by the hands of professionals, children, parents and community members in October 1993. An effort which took 1,000 volunteers and $100,000.
“It was a big project,” Splitstone said. “I told the city we would raise an extra $10,000 for maintenance, which was pretty bold and … we did it.”
Since that fall day in 1993 the park has been enjoyed by thousands of families, both locally as well as passers through town. It has served as a stopping point for busses as they make their way through Oakdale, as well as the sight of numerous birthday parties and picnics.
“We just didn’t know any better,” Splitstone stated of the aspirations of herself and the committee. “The dream was so big and the desire in my heart to see this happen. To bring the community together.”
Time and circumstance, though, have ow gotten the better of the popular ‘wood park.’ This October in observation of the 22nd anniversary of the grassroots effort a revitalization of the park will be hosted.
Oakdale Children’s Play Park Committee in conjunction with the City of Oakdale and service clubs throughout the city will stage the Oakdale Children’s Play Park Revitalization Project beginning Oct. 14 through Oct. 18, 2015.
“I was very happy to see it was going to be revitalized,” the visionary said. “It’s going to be completely redone. It’s not really a revitalization; it’s a whole new park.”
The City has once again partnered with Playgrounds by Leathers for the five-day build. The project will remove and replace the majority of the existing structures with structural plastic and recycled plastic materials.
“It’s like an old fashioned barn raising,” Splitstone said of the long days and manhours needed to see the project through. “We have skilled and unskilled. There really is something for everyone to do.”
Families are encouraged to volunteer during any or all of the five days. Splitstone shared that River Oak Grace Community Church has offered child care services for those wishing to volunteer on Saturday, Oct. 17.
“I’m very happy that they came and said what do you need,” the veteran builder said. “Saturday and Sunday need to be big days. You need the community as much as the money. We need volunteers. Anyone can help. We’ll have a job for you.”
Splitstone shared they are also in need of tools on loan noting a need for drills, jigsaws, routers, circular saws, gloves and hammers.
“The way the community came together then and then again now, it’s such a special thing,” she shared.
“What I’d like the children of the community now and in the future to know is, this is when the community came together for them,” Splitstone continued, “twenty two years ago and in a couple of weeks because they were that important to us.”
For more information on the Oakdale Children’s Play Park Project visit www.oakdaleplaypark.com. Tax deductible donations may be sent to Oakdale Rotary Foundation, specify “Play Park” on the contribution and mail to: The Oakdale Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 623, Oakdale, CA 95361.