FORT LARAMIE – The town’s newest council member is looking to clean up the parks.
Laura Curtsinger, who joined the council when Joyce Evans was elected mayor in July, is starting with picnic tables. But she has loftier plans for the tiny eastern Wyoming community she calls home.
“It started when I moved here,” Curtsinger said. “I believe parks are something people look at right away when they drive into town.”
To that end, Curtsinger is starting out small, organizing a picnic table painting day for this coming Saturday, Sept. 15, starting at 10 a.m. Between the two parks in town, there are 15 picnic tables she believes could do with a good sanding and a fresh coat of paint. Curtsinger has already recruited families to “adopt” 12 of the tables, including her own, who were out this past Saturday, Sept. 8, working on one of the tables at North Park.
City crews will bring the tables from the park on the south side of Fort Laramie to North Park, unofficially known as Memorial Park, because of the veteran’s memorial on its east side. The volunteers will gather and work until they’re done. They will have somewhat free rein on the final look of their tables, beyond the basic white tops and seats and blue legs the tables currently have.
“We have white paint for the tops and blue for the bases,” Curtsinger said. “We’re just doing two basic colors so we don’t end up with a confetti effect. Kids can get a little rambunctious.
“One thing I thought would be fun would be to put handprints of the kids on there or do some kind of decorations, or they can keep them solid white and blue,” she said. “We’ll also have some paint pens, so people can write their names on the sides or draw on the tops.”
In Curtsinger’s eyes, all the picnic tables – including some older ones which were donated from the nearby National Historic Site decades ago – are still in salvageable condition. While she has been working to replace some of the wood on a few of the tables, the preventative maintenance plan she’s promoting should extend their useful life for several more years.
As of Saturday, Sept. 8, about 34 people had signed up to adopt the picnic tables, Curtsinger said, leaving three to be claimed by the Sept. 15 work day. And she’s gathered donations of supplies from area businesses from Torrington to Guernsey, including paint, paintbrushes and enough food to feed an army of picnic table painters during the workday, she said.
Donors include Main Street Market and Kelly’s Super Market in Torrington, Guernsey Market in Guernsey and Ty’s Pitstop in Lingle for the food; Century Lumber, Bloedorn Lumber, Bomgaars in Torrington and Howshar Hardware in Guernsey chipped in the paint and sundry supplies, she said.
Curtsinger’s vision for the community parks goes beyond just painting picnic tables, though. Moving forward, she’d like to see upgrades and additions to playground equipment, with eventual inclusion of a splash pad for children not only from Fort Laramie, but from around the area, to enjoy.
“I think it would draw a lot of kids from around here,” she said. “It would benefit not only Fort Laramie kids, but Torrington, Yoder and more.
“And parents love it, too,” Curtsinger said. “They can sit back and watch their kids or they can join in. Little kids can just cruise around and have a blast.”
The other big challenge to the overall project is money – how to pay for it. To that end, Curtsinger has already been approved for inclusion in Wyo-Braska Gives, an online fundraiser in November where individuals, groups and organizations with money to give can pick and choose between a host of charitable endeavors.
She’s also working with a variety of companies on different grant funding. Early estimates indicate the entire project, with the splash pad and new playground equipment suitable for small kids with climbing apparatus, slides and more, starts around $50,000, Curtsinger said.
But safety is the first concern, she said. Curtsinger has already had an inspector look at the current playground equipment, some of which has been deemed unsafe. A slide and swing set at the North Park don’t meet safety requirements and one climbing apparatus at the park needs to be upgraded by adding a layer of pea gravel beneath it to soften the blows if children should fall off as they play, she said.
“Actually, (none of the playground equipment) is up to code right now,” Curtsinger said. “I’m working on getting it that way.
“Right here is where the bus picks up and drops off the kids who are bussed to Lingle (for school),” she said. “I really want to take out all the equipment that’s not safe, that’s so worn out it’s been deemed unsafe.”