By JENNIFER DEMPSEY

Progress Editor

PAULDING – In 2001, a committee raised money to construct a new playground in LaFountain Park in Paulding.

They raised $80,000 in a mere six months and hundreds of people came together to build the park in less than a week.

Less than 20 years later, the park is deteriorating. Weeds have overtaken the landscaping, chains are rusted, and boards are missing.

Last week, residents found racial slurs and profanity burnt into the wood. Racial slurs were also painted on a dugout at the Reservoir Park.

Many residents are wondering how we got to this point. On Thursday, July 9, a group of concerned residents met at the park to figure out how to fix the problem.

The meeting was organized by Parks and Recreation committee member Andrea Schlueter. Schlueter has been voicing her opinions and concerns to Paulding Village Council for over a year now with little success.

Some people in attendance at the meeting were part of the committee that helped to construct the park and were disheartened to see the park looking so poorly.

It was discussed in the meeting that at the time of the parks construction, some of the people involved with the planning wanted to also be in charge of the upkeep and maintenance, but the Village of Paulding was adamant that they would care for the park.

It’s obvious by looking at the condition of the park, that it is not being cared for.

On Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12, volunteers from all over the county came to work on the park.

Men donated their skills and lumber to fix a bridge that was unsafe and a platform that had collapsed due to rotted boards.

A section of rotted perimeter boards was also repaired.

People worked together to pull weeks and overgrown grass back from the brick walkway up to the structure. Four to six inches of grass had grown over the bricks on both sides.

Workers unearthed another strip of bricks that they didn’t know was there due to overgrowth.

Officer Tim Ridgway with the Paulding Police Department brought out ice cream sandwiches for the kids that were helping. The volunteers were very thankful for the support and good deed from the Paulding Police Department.

On Sunday, volunteers from Payne came out and power-washed the walkway and pavilion. The names of people who donated money during the original construction are now visible once again.

Also dealt with was a rotted intrusive tree in the landscaping. Volunteers were able to cut down the tree.

During the two work days, no members from the Village Council or members of the Parks and Recreation Board showed up to help besides Schlueter, who has been the driving force for repairs.

19 volunteers on Saturday put it 66.5 hours of work while 15 volunteers on Sunday put in 40.5 hours of work.

Even though volunteers put in a lot of hours over the weekend, there is still a lot more work that needs to done.

Since the park does not receive the upkeep it needs, many floor boards need replaced. A huge project is also digging out the existing rotted mulch and laying all new mulch throughout the entire playground.

Another important task is finding a way to preserve the handprint tiles that line the walls of the toddler area. These handprints were made by volunteers who helped construct the park and are irreplaceable. A lot of the plexiglass is missing that was protecting the tiles.

One question that keeps coming up over, and over again is why isn’t the Village of Paulding maintaining this park?

When LaFountain Park was built in 2001, the Village insisted on being in charge of the maintenance. But a look at the yearly village budget shows they have zero monies appropriated for the operations and maintenance of LaFountain Park and Reservoir Park.

A levy was also passed recently for repairs and maintenance on the pool, yet nothing has been done to that either.

In addition to normal wear and tear on the structure, it’s also frequently vandalized. It’s not uncommon to find foul language, vulgar drawings, used condoms, alcoholic beverage containers and needles in and around the park.

Although police reports are usually made and the police investigate, it’s hard to find the culprit when there are no surveillance cameras at the park.

A lot of work was done to make the park safer over the weekend, but a lot of work still needs to be done. If you are interested in helping with future projects, please contact Andrea Schlueter at 832-290-1678. You can also find the Parks and Recreation page on Facebook to keep up to date with future projects.