Bel Air pupils give designer inspiration for Rockfield Creative Playground


When students at six Bel Air elementary schools were asked to describe their dream playground, images of swimming pools, water slides and go-carts immediately filled their heads.

As part of Design Day, Dennis Wille, a designer from the Leathers and Associates architectural firm in Ithaca, N.Y., talked with about 700 students before drawing a preliminary sketch of Rockfield Creative Playground, which will be built at Rockfield Park adjacent to John Carroll High School in Bel Air.

Students from Bel Air Elementary, Fountain Green Elementary, Harford Day, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary, Ring Factory Elementary and St. Margaret's schools participated in the March 22 event at Bel Air Elementary. The playground will be built in five days by 1,000 Harford volunteers.

Construction was supposed to start in the fall but has been postponed to spring 1996 because of planning conflicts.

"It's too soon to be putting in a children's playground," said Bob Syphard, Bel Air planner. "We've been hesitant to push things too far because there is very little parking available around the park."

The playground will be built after grading for Phase I of 46-acre Rockfield Park, which will have parking lots and two baseball fields in addition to the playground, said Nancy Castaldo, general coordinator for the playground project.

Mr. Wille's design, a bit more realistic than the children's, includes treehouses, castles, lighthouses and bridges made from pressure-treated wood and rubber tires.

"He tried to design it to Harford County with agricultural and seaside themes," said Elaine Orbino, 36, public relations chairwoman for the project.

The 20,000-square-foot playground will have three distinct theme areas in addition to interconnecting tunnels, mazes, slides, swings and picnic tables.

The agricultural theme area, designed for preschool children, will have a playhouse, truck and tractor structures, a spring-mounted horse and balance beam. A wall with painted pictures of animals will have cutouts for children's faces.

A medieval theme area will incorporate a climbing wall, a dinosaur, a castle and twisting slides for school-age children.

The third area, with a seaside motif representing the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River, will have a floating raft, a lighthouse, a spring-mounted crab and an obstacle course.

Parts of the playground, such as an elevated sandbox and hands-on activities such as musical chimes, will be wheelchair-accessible.

"It's a big playground with so many places to go that you won't get bored in 15 or 20 minutes," said Mrs. Castaldo, 35. "You can spend a few hours there."

With the planning complete, those involved with the project are ready to start raising money and recruiting volunteers. The project is expected to cost $75,000.

Two big sponsors, McDonald's and Bel Air's Festival of the Arts, have donated services and redeemable coupons.

"Unfortunately, we've got a lot of promises but no checks in hand," said Mrs. Castaldo. "We're hard up for money. We've got a long way to go."

The organizers hope to raise money by selling T-shirts at $10 for adults, $8 for children. Direct purchases can be made at the project's fund-raisers and during fall sports registration May 15 to May 18 at Bel Air Elementary School.

The T-shirts also will be available through mail order at six Bel Air HTC area schools. More than 2,000 shirts will be adorned with Kaitlyn Kravec's prize-winning design. The second-grader at Ring Factory Elementary won a T-shirt logo contest two weeks ago.

For a $25 donation, families can have their names engraved on a picket that will become part of a fence surrounding the playground. Picket fence donations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, Mrs. Orbino said.

A family hoedown and an adults-only bull roast in the fall are also planned to raise money, she said.

In addition to the playground, Rockfield Park will have horticultural display gardens, picnic pavilions, nature trails and restrooms, said Catherine Adams, master plan coordinator and landscape architect for Bel Air Parks and Recreation.

Volunteers are planting the ornamental gardens, which will be completed in the next few weeks, she said.

Seven runners-up in the logo contest won a pizza party for their class. The runners-up are Lauren Walker, Harford Day; Lauren Moore, St. Margaret's; Michelle Lee, Fountain Green Elementary; Joey Heagerty, Bel Air Elementary; Patrick McLhinney, Wakefield Elementary; Kristen Nevel, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary; and Janine Jasovsky, Ring Factory.

Their logos will be used for posters, thank-you notes and an advertising program book.

For more information on Rockfield Creative Playground, call Mrs. Castaldo at 838-5348.

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