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Group works to save the Lions playground

May 15, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Approximately 35 people arrived at the St. James City Civic Association last week to try to find a way to save the Lions playground on SJCCA property. Almost everyone present has children and grandchildren who use the playground.

The Maurice Pennock Memorial Playground, on the corner of Lemon Street and 4th Avenue, was installed 19 years ago with the help of the Greater Pine Island Lions Club and help from the community. The Lions Club signed a perpetual lease in January 2000 and has leased and maintained the property ever since.

"Unfortunately, Lions president Mary Von Berg, who has been Lions president for many years, is stepping down," St. James City resident Cindy Bickford said.

Article Photos

The deteriorating wood steps at Lions Playground. Saving the playground will require replacement of almost all the equipment.


Bickford, who lives near the playground and has grandchildren that frequently use the facilities, spearheaded the effort to save the playground.

"When I learned that we could lose the playground, I decided to do something to try to save it since this playground is the only children's park south of the Center," Bickford said.

There were three SJCCA board members present: Pat Johnson (president), Diane Horn (vice president) and Mary Scheutte (secretary).

The board of SJCCA is concerned about the deterioration of the equipment and was considering closing the park due to a lack of funds to make the necessary repairs and maintenance.

"Nobody on the board is against having the park here, but the St. James City building is an old building and we're having trouble maintaining this," Diane Horn said. "The Civic Center does not have the money to maintain the park."

The costs of keeping the park would require replacement of nearly all of the equipment. Wood has deteriorated and a tire swing has wires protruding from it.

Costs to maintain the park are estimated to be $45 a month for pest control and $300 annually for liability insurance. SJCCA leases the property for $1 annually.

Shawn Kinney and Susan Saulsbery from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Pine Island were present and suggested that the playground was "right up the Kiwanis Club alley."

The Kiwanis mission statement is "Kiwanis helps kids around the world. Local clubs look out for our communities and the international organization takes on large-scale challenges, such as fighting disease and poverty. We are generous with our time. We are creative with our ideas. We are passionate about making a difference. And we have fun along the way."

"The information we have today gives us a great starting point that we can take back to the board," Kinney said. "Kiwanis could certainly afford to maintain the property and we'll be having a board meeting in the next couple of weeks."

As of today, the matter will be presented to the Kiwanis Board within a week or two and the board of directors of SJCCA will hear a proposal when they return in October.

"A local organization (yet to be finalized) may be stepping up to maintain the park," Bickford said. "I believe in the Pine Island community. Please help in any way you are able when the call is made for funding."

For additional information, contact Bickford at 239-282-9478 or by email at



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