Students will get a new place to play

MONT VERNON – It wasn’t the tallest structure in town, but for Mont Vernon kids over the last 15 years or so, the tower at the school playground may have been the most exciting.

Reached through a raised tube made of old tires, it was a place to hide from grownups, slide down a fireman’s pole or play on the biggest slide around.

Now the wooden structure and the attached “castle” alongside Mont Vernon Village School are gone, victims of age and safety concerns. But the fun won’t be ending.

Thanks to a donation of more than $20,000 from town resident Bob Swartz, who owns Saturn dealerships in Nashua and Manchester, and the scheduled work Sunday of some 15 Saturn employees, a whole new playground should be ready by Monday morning.

“We’ve been doing things in the community since I’ve had these two stores. The Village School was looking for a donation, and the reason I chose the playground was the opportunity to get my team together, have the employees work together for a common goal,” Swartz said.

The Swartzes moved to town last year. Susan Swartz, Bob’s wife, was elected to the Mont Vernon School Board in March.

Bob St. Cyr, principal of the 250-student school, noted that the couple won’t get much direct benefit from the playground donation, since their daughter Ashley is in the sixth grade and will be moving up to Amherst Middle School next year.

“This donation is a model example of philanthropy at its best,” he said.

David Nadeau, service and parts director for Saturn of Nashua, said at least 15 employees were expected to show up Sunday morning to erect the metal and plastic playground, made by Miracle Recreation Equipment Co. of Vermont.

“Community service is part of the Saturn culture, but this is the first time we’ve done a community project, all together like this,” Nadeau said. “We just put a signup sheet out in the conference room, and it was filled up.”

Work starts at 8 a.m., and will probably last at least until noon. Other volunteers are welcomed to help with the job.

The school had been looking at replacing the playground for several years, partly because of concerns that the castle design, once very popular in playgrounds, had too many places for children to hide. Several components that had used tires also were showing age, with metal treads poking through the rubber, and places had gotten compacted and hard over time, particularly at the bottom of the slide.The installation will include a “playground carpet,” a synthetic fiber similar to wood chips.

Unexpected costs, including the need to take out some trees, almost brought the work to a halt, St. Cyr said, but Swartz increased his donation to cover the expense.