By Joe Crews
For Hometown News
After a two-year struggle to raise funds, a community group is delaying major renovations to Magic Forest Playground in Ormond Beach because not all of the cash is in hand.
Plans are for an expansion of the 18-year-old park north of The Trails shopping center on Nova Road as well as new equipment and refurbishing of some existing components. Originally, the playground and surrounding areas were to be closed for about three weeks beginning Sept. 10, said Mike Bowen, the general coordinator for the non-profit group R.O.M.P., or Renovate Ormond's Magic Forest Playground, which is behind the renovation effort.
"We're going to put it off until the second week of January," Mr. Bowen said.
The improvements will include increasing the size of the playground by about a third; adding a tree-house "fort," a "retro rocket" with multiple slides and a pirate ship with netting that kids can climb on; replacing the plastic slides and swings and giving them new chains; and upgrading the park to have "all inclusive" accessibility.
"We're basically taking out some of the old components and putting in new ones," Mr. Bowen said. "We're updating things. It just takes a lot of money."
The committee agreed two years ago to raise funds to match a $40,000 contribution from the city of Ormond Beach. But as potential users looked at the plans, the wish list grew to a cost of $105,000, with the committee's share increasing to $65,000, Mr. Bowen said.
The committee needs to raise another $40,000 before the new equipment can be bought so the renovations can begin, he said.
"We're really having trouble raising the funds," he said. "We just need the money. We're kind of embarrassed we haven't been able to raise this money."
The community group approached the city two years ago about renovating the playground after the company that built the park looked at it and pronounced it generally in very good shape. But some of the components were beyond their life spans, and the company made some recommendations for renovations and upgrades.
"R.O.M.P. Inc. came to the city and asked for help, and that's how they got $40,000 from the city," said Robert Carolin, Ormond Beach's director of leisure services. "They didn't realize how much work it was to become a 501(c)3 organization so they could solicit larger donations from corporations wanting a tax break."
Despite the fundraising shortfall, Mr. Carolin said there's not much chance the city would kick in any more funding.
"Everyone is aware of the financial condition of every city," he said. "It's also supposed to be a community-led project."
Mr. Bowen of R.O.M.P. said there are a lot of ways people and corporations can donate and get their names on different components in the playground. Donors of larger amounts will be listed on a separate plaque.
When the work begins in January, community volunteers will be needed to help with some of the renovation work, Mr. Bowen said.
"We'll need about 80 a day and a lot more on that on the last weekend," he said.
To donate to the project, call the Leisure Services Dept., (386) 676-3277.