Villagers in Luthermuir were dealt a disappointing blow last summer when the area’s only playpark was deemed unsafe and sealed off without warning.
The intervention from Aberdeenshire Council, following an inspection that highlighted hazards, came at a time in the pandemic when families relied on the park to have some fun with their little ones.
People in the tight-knit community south of Laurencekirk were later dismayed to learn that the local authority didn’t have enough cash to buy replacement equipment.
But the rural residents have since banded together, and a group of parents have taken on the mammoth task of rebuilding the playpark from the ground up.
After several months of fundraising efforts, families have finally completed the first stage of the ambitious project and are now appealing for donations to take the next step.
Following an inspection in August last year, the local authority decided to condemn the deteriorating play equipment due to wood rot.
The baby swings and the wooden playhouse were then suddenly fenced off and closed.
Some of you may have noticed the fencing round this piece of equipment.I have been in touch with the council and during…
But due to the lack of funding, the council is unable to replace the dangerous equipment or cover the costs of demolishing it.
‘Our kids need somewhere to play’
Devastated to lose their only playpark, residents in the area south of Laurencekirk decided to take the matter into their own hands and rebuild the facility themselves.
The newly formed family organisation, working in partnership with Luthermuir Hall and Park Committee, has since secured thousands of pounds through community grants and fundraising events.
One of the members, 27-year-old Paula Mitchelson, said the closure of the park was a big loss for both parents and children.
The mother-of-two said: “Without much warning, in the middle of the pandemic when the only thing kids can do is go to the play park, railings were put around the park and the baby swings were taken down.
“It left us with absolutely nothing for the younger ones, and especially for the babies.
“The only thing was the school trail, but the arrangements to use it only at the weekend and in the evenings weren’t really appropriate for all the families with toddlers, babies or home-schooled kids.
“And the kids need somewhere to play, especially in a small village like ours.”
Community effort to improve facilities for children
Over the last eight months, the family committee has been all hands on deck to secure enough funding for the first phase of the playpark revamp project.
After raising the required £6,000, parents were “over the moon” to finally arrange the installment of new baby swings and spring equipment for their children.
Now, they are appealing for donations in effort to raise £30,000 for the second stage of the ambitious plan, which would see the wooden playhouse replaced with a brand new climbing frame with two slides and wheelchair access.
Miss Mitchelson hopes that, in the next few years, they will be able to provide an all-inclusive safe place for children of all ages, as well as adults.
She added: “The kids are so happy to finally have somewhere to play, and of course we are very proud to get this far with the project, as it’s been incredibly hard.
“It’s probably going to take us a few years to complete the whole project, but everybody has really been all hands on deck to help and support us.
“In the long run, we are really hoping to be able to create a community space for all generations, where people of all ages can socialise and work together.”
Philip McKay, head of roads, landscape services and waste Management, said: “At the end of last summer, our routine inspections confirmed the swings and small playhouse at Luthermuir were no longer fit for purpose and a temporary repair was not feasible.
“Subsequently, discussions were held with the Luthermuir Hall and Park Committee which offered to remove the damaged units and fundraise for new equipment, assisted by council officers.
“While we had hoped to be able to assist the committee during a second phase of its playpark project, the continuing financial constraints the council faces as a result of the Covid pandemic means we were are unable to allocate additional monies to our parks and open spaces at the current time.”
Anybody who wishes to support the project can make a donation on the Luthermuir Hall and Park Committee’s Facebook page.