Avast ye mateys, thar be pirates coming to Elk Grove.
With the Cosumnes Community Services District facing dwindling doubloons, the citizens group that built Morse Park playground has set its sights on rebuilding the beloved Pirate Island play area in Elk Grove Regional Park.
“We’re pretty lucky that we have this group of citizens that is really interested in getting these playgrounds built,” Cosumnes Community Services District management analyst Jenny Smith said. “Especially now, in these economic times, when there isn’t a lot of money for projects like this.”
Pirate Island opened in the early 1970s in the middle of Elk Grove Lake and featured a suspension bridge that led to a wooden play structure. The playground was torn down in the late 1980s because it didn’t meet new safety standards, Smith said.
The island has been deserted ever since.
Now, Playground Partners is spearheading a fundraising effort to build a new Pirate Island playground. The group of volunteer residents and business leaders are working with the CSD and Cosumnes Legacy Foundation to raise an initial goal of $50,000 to design and plan the playground.
A kick-off event at the Giant Pumpkin Festival in October raised $6,000, according to Smith. Other fundraisers, including the Best of Elk Grove, are planned for the summer.
“We’re just trying to get the community awareness up and get people excited and wanting to participate,” Playground Partners co-chair Lisa Brown said.
Playground Partners volunteers raised $250,000 to build the play area and “sprayground” at Morse Park, which opened in 2009 after four years of fundraising.
But group leaders say Pirate Island may take longer and more money to build.
For Morse Park, the CSD also had $100,000 from new development fees that served as seed money for the $350,000 project. And unlike Morse Park, the island in Elk Grove Regional Park does not have plumbing or electricity.
Since it’s an island, space is limited.
“It has to be carefully planned because of the size and it’s kind of on a hill,” said Brown.
Regardless, organizers are confident they will be able to build a playground.
“I’ve been telling people that Pirate Island is going to be a long-term project,” Playground Partners co-chair Kristie Rivera said. “If you give the community a project to rally around, they will do it.”
CSD Director Gil Albiani said he’s grateful for Playground Partners.
“The CSD is going to furloughs and cutting back on salaries. We’re cutting everywhere we can,” Albiani said. “So when we get a community group that reaches out and says, ‘We want to help,’ that is sometimes the only thing that makes it possible to do projects like Pirate Island. It’s very selfless.”
Elk Grove Regional Park spans over 127 acres and serves as a gathering place for family picnics as well as community events and festivals.
Longtime Elk Grove residents remember Pirate Island fondly.
“I had several of my birthday parties there,” said CSD Fire Department Public Education Officer Jennifer Rubin. “Pirate Island was fun. There was an intricate playground structure that when I was little seemed really big. You could climb up high and look over the whole park. It was pretty cool.”
Although organizers haven’t started designing the playground yet, they say it will have a pirate theme.
“The fact that it’s sitting on an island really adds to the mystique of this play area for kids,” Rivera said. “The environment lends itself to kids’ imaginations.”