Mayor Barlow Opens New Kingsford Park School Playground

The students cut the ribbon
The students cut the ribbon

OSWEGO – In April 2016, dozens of Kingsford Park Elementary School students marched to City Hall to advocate for a new and safer playground at the park adjacent to their school.

The students cut the ribbon
The students cut the ribbon

Today (September 21), they saw the results of their efforts.

Mayor Billy Barlow officially opened the brand new Kingsford Park School playground with a ribbon cutting event with school administrators, staff, students and many others.

In 2016, three second grade classes took a field trip to City Hall to advocate for a new playground at Kingsford Park. Those students, now fourth graders, were on hand to help the mayor officially open the playground.

“We have with us today the classroom teachers who actually were the teachers in charge of these now fourth grade students who were second graders when this whole thing started,” Kingsford Park School Principal Mary Volkomer said.

Principal Mary Volkomer welcomes Mayor Billy Barlow and Councilor John Gosek, right
Principal Mary Volkomer welcomes Mayor Billy Barlow and Councilor John Gosek, right

Mrs. Kelly Waite (Grade 2 teacher) and Mrs. Melissa Stafford (Grade 2 teacher) were in the audience. Miss Castaldo is no longer a teacher at KPS but was face timing all the way from North Carolina, the principal said.

“This all started with these three teachers doing a writing piece and (the students) thought they really needed to see come improvement so they wrote letters to the mayor,” she said.

“I am extremely excited to open this new playground and deliver for the outstanding students at Kingsford Park School. This project started when these students came to City Hall to lobby for a new playground. Two years later, they have their new playground and realize their participation in local government was effective,” Barlow told the large crowd at the event. “Replacing this playground is consistent with our broader strategy of enhancing our parks, improving our community and making Oswego a better place for our youth.”

A large "Thank You" banner was signed by the KPS students and presented to the mayor.
A large “Thank You” banner was signed by the KPS students and presented to the mayor.

Pulling a large manila envelope from the podium, the mayor turned to face the scores of students behind him. “I actually still have those letters you wrote me saved in my office. I was going through them just the other day and I remember you reading these to me at City Hall,” he told the students as he held up the envelope. “I will be writing you a letter back in the coming days that you can keep, just like I kept these.”

He said he wanted the playground to be an example to the students of what can happen if they get involved. They would stiff have “that old, unsafe, not fun anymore playground” if they hadn’t gotten involved, he said.

The new playground was a major priority of Fifth Ward Councilor John Gosek who successfully secured $40,000 in funding in the city budget to replace the existing old and deteriorating playground.

Councilor John Gosek thanks everyone who helped build the new playground
Councilor John Gosek thanks everyone who helped build the new playground

“Our parks and playgrounds are a critical piece of our community and my administration will continue our efforts by replacing old playground equipment and continually improving our parks and public space,” Barlow added.

Councilor Gosek championed the park replacement project by advocating and securing the funding during the city budget process and worked to organize volunteers and coordinate with school officials to make sure the project was completed for the new school year.

“The opening of this playground is the culmination of more than a year of hard work, dedication and determination on the part of various community stakeholders – city officials, school district officials, parents and volunteers. I would personally like to thank them all, especially Kompon sales representative Brie Martinez. This playground is the sort of collaborative community based project that embodies and showcases the true spirit of Oswego,” Gosek said.

“I can’t thank these people enough,” he said, adding that he graduated from KPS “many years ago.”

It's play time!
It’s play time!

He praised the students for their efforts. “It’s a testament to the spirit of Oswego,” he said. “For me, it embodies what’s best about Oswego and makes it a great place to live and raise a family.”

Principal Volkomer thanked the mayor and councilor for listening and taking action following the students’ field trip to City Hall.

“I stand before you today grateful, humble and hopeful. Grateful for Mayor Barlow qand Councilor Gosek and the KPS Home and School Association and for all the men and women behind the scenes who made what made what began as a grade level project a reality. Humbled by the dedication the work of the volunteers, the DPW employees, Kompon representatives, the installers and the neighborhood families for putting up with (the project),” she said. “I am hopeful that the lessons learned by the current fourth graders that advocacy, civic responsibility and championing a cause can create something so beautiful.”

Hanging out at the new playground.
Hanging out at the new playground.

“I am hopeful that many will see this park for years to come as a time when working together as a community to imagine, act and follow through with a plan pays off,” she continued. “Let this day inspire us all to continue to work in the service of others, to create a better park, a better community and a better version of ourselves.”

The students who wrote Mayor Barlow letters and visited his office two years ago assisted with the cutting of the ribbon.

The Oswego Bookmobile and the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau were on hand to offer some activities following the ribbon cutting. Former councilor and current legislator Nate Emmons donated the sound system for the event.

April 2016  — How It All Began

Students Advocate For Safer, Improved Playground
OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego Common Council Chamber has been the scene of thousands of presentations over the years.

In April of 2016, students advocated for playground improvements. In late September 2018 - they enjoyed the fruits of their civic involvement.
In April of 2016, students advocated for playground improvements. In late September 2018 – they enjoyed the fruits of their civic involvement.

It was packed again on Tuesday as nearly 100 Kingsford Park Elementary School second graders marched to City Hall with a message for Mayor Billy Barlow.

The city-owned playground adjacent to the west side school has fallen into disrepair and the students voiced their concerns to the mayor and other city officials.

The youngsters, accompanied by their teachers and principal, filed into the chamber in orderly fashion and proceeded to take their seats.

“There are some things on the playground that the second graders feel need some changes, some revamping,” teacher Taylor Castaldo told the mayor. “We use the park every day and many members of the community also use it.”

Several of the students stepped up in front of the mayor. They held photos depicting different areas of concern in the playground.

“We would like new safety material for our city playground,” one student told the mayor. “We need this because there is a tarp that people trip on, rocks that can be thrown and a wood barrier that doesn’t help our friends in wheelchairs.”

“We would like more space to play because there are often many classes using the playground at one time. There are 75 second graders alone, imagine the rest of the school and the whole community,” another student said.

The students also said they would like more swings, slides and other equipment so there is room for everyone to play together.

A student noted that the playground isn’t visually appealing.

“It needs new paint to make it look beautiful and more inviting,” he said, adding that “there are also bad words on our city playground that should be covered.”

Among the other concerns shared by the students were: a need for age appropriate equipment for younger and older children, an easier way to get to the playground that isn’t muddy, and the need for garbage cans.

Mayor Barlow told the students that he read all of the letters they sent him recently regarding the playground issue.

“I read every single letter. I found some of the same themes kept coming up. The need for more swings was in just about every letter. I think the other complaint I heard was the problem with all the rocks on the ground,” the mayor said. “Someone asked about fixing the basketball hoop. There were a few other concerns, some of you wrote about the need for trash cans.”

After the meeting, based on the pictures the children had shared, the mayor said he would meet with the DPW Commissioner and see what they can do now to make the park a better place. They would also consider what could be done in the future to improve the playground, he added.

Adding some trash receptacles was something they could do right away.

“I appreciate you coming down. We’ll work to try to improve the playground,” Mayor Barlow said. “We wouldn’t have known about the playground unless you guys told us. So, thank you.”

The students have some real concerns about the playground, Castaldo said.

“They were brain-storming about what they could do to fix things and came up with the idea to bring the matter to the attention of the mayor,” she told Oswego County Today.

This ties into the students’ English lesson, she added. They are learning about writing different types of letters – including the persuasive kind they wrote to the mayor.

Principal Mary Volkomer said she was very proud of her second graders.

“They came up with this idea on their own and followed through,” she said. “All of them were very well-behaved today. They have an idea of how our city government works now. It’s something they are going to remember all their lives.”