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Volunteers install playground at Mohave Valley/Fort Mohave park

BILL McMILLEN, The Daily News Nov 23, 2019



MOHAVE VALLEY — Nearly everyone involved in the planning and construction of a new KaBOOM! playground at Fort Mohave/Mohave Valley Community Park came to the same conclusion: Community is what it’s all about.


“It’s a true community park,” Mehdi Azarmi, manager of the park project, said as the playground equipment was going up Saturday.

“We really do have an amazing community,” echoed Nancy Mongeau, vice president of program development for the BHHS Legacy Foundation in the Tri-state.


“The community just came out in droves,” observed Chip Sherrill, whose family is leasing the land for the sprawling park for $1 a year in a 50-year agreement.


The playground is the newest fixture at the park, thanks to the efforts of more than 250 volunteers, who spent several hours on a cool and windy Saturday.


“It’s truly a coalition,” said Katrina Bitanga, project manager for KaBOOM!, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to providing safe places for children to play. “This is what happens when you involved the right people. It’s really cool.”


The 2,500-square-foot playground, installed near the southern entrance to the 39-acre park, was a collaborative effort between KaBOOM!, Fiesta Bowl Charities, the BHHS Legacy Foundation and, of course, all the volunteers.


“Having this many partners and volunteers is amazing,” said Kristina Chumpol, director of community relations for Fiesta Bowl Charities.


Fiesta Bowl Charities, a philanthropic arm of the nonprofit Fiesta Bowl organization, works to expand community outreach throughout Arizona. One way is partnering with KaBOOM! on playground projects. Saturday’s was the eighth time the two organizations have hooked up with more planned.


“As Fiesta Bowl Charities, we’re committed to the power of play,” Chumpol said. “We know what play can do for a kiddo.”


And that is why the park exists. Azarmi. a developer in the Tri-state, said he was approached several years ago about the absence of a park in the Fort Mohave/Mohave Valley area. He said residents in the southern part of the valley had to travel to Bullhead City or Lake Havasu — or across the river to Needles — to find a park to play in.


“We had no budget, no money,” he said.

Then Sherrill and his family stepped forward, donating the use of the land. He also helped arrange some improvements to the land — clearing and leveling it — to make it more suitable for a park.

Azarmi then began the task of finding funding. The BHHS Legacy Foundation came through. So did Mohave County. And an anonymous donor.

And volunteers. Lots of volunteers and lots of in-kind donations, either in materials, labor and, often times, both.


“This park has been appraised at $15 million,” he said Saturday. “We put $1 million (donated cash) into it. The rest has been through in-kind donations. For every dollar we’ve put into the park, there has been $14 added.

“That’s pretty amazing.” Saturday’s playground construction was the latest chapter of that amazing story.


“It’s great to see the community come together like this,” said Betty Rae, executive director of the Without Waste Mobile Pantry and Caring Hearts Food Ministry, groups that participated in Saturday’s effort. They weren’t alone.


Members of the Sunrise Rotary Club on Fort Mohave were on hand. So were employees from Baron Landscaping, Home Depot, Mohave Electric, several local independent contractors, school groups from Mohave and River Valley high schools and dozens of community members, all of whom take pride in the “community” name on the park.


“With this particular project, it’s all about volunteerism,” Mongeau said.

KaBOOM! has helped build playgrounds at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River and Topock Legacy Park and installed the original playground equipment at Rotary Park in Bullhead City. It joined in the partnership partly because of its previous involvement in the Tri-state.


“The design was all inspired by what the kids wanted,” Bitanga said. “From the middle school, an idea sprouted. From there, the community really got involved.”

Saturday’s construction went fairly smoothly despite occasional high winds and cooler-than-normal temperatures.


“We’re powering through,” Chumpol said. “Other than getting mulch in our eyes ... it’s all been good.”

All wasn’t good earlier in the week, however. But then Sherrill stepped in — again — to support the park.


More than 2 inches of rain in a three-day period turned much of the park — including the area set aside for the playground — into a swamp. Azarmi said rescheduling Saturday’s build wasn’t an option at such a late date.


“They (KaBOOM!) were already planning to be here. The Fiesta Bowl was already planning to be here,” Azarmi said. “If we had to reschedule, we probably couldn’t have done it again until next spring. We didn’t want to wait. We couldn’t wait.”

So Sherrill arranged for tons of sand, dirt and gravel to be brought in — “35 dump truck loads,” he said — from a nearby gravel pit. The aggregate was leveled, allowing the playground project to proceed.


“Kids are going to be able to come here and make some memories,” Chumpol said. “How much is that worth?”


The playground is the latest feature added to the park, which already includes a 4-acre dog park — reportedly the largest in Arizona — as well as athletic fields, walking and running trails, 1.7 miles of sidewalk, four pickleball courts, a tennis court and lighting.


More amenities are in the works. An ADA-compliant playground will be built near the site of Saturday’s project. Scoreboards are planned for the athletic fields, as are concession stands and a large ramada.


“As soon as we get that project done,” Azarmi said with a nod to the playground, “we’ll start working on the next one.”

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