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Shelter Island’s Tot Lot ready for toddler action

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Michael Mitchell and Martin Hunt of the Public Works Department were hard at work Tuesday morning at the Tot Lot.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Michael Mitchell. left, and Martin Hunt of the Public Works Department were hard at work Tuesday morning at the Tot Lot.

Could it be that the first group of children who played at the Tot Lot are now in their 20s?

Indeed. It was about 20 years ago that a group of young mothers, convinced that the Shelter Island School playground was inappropriate for their toddlers, prevailed on school officials to allow them to use space on School Street, providing they would raise the money for the equipment and installation that would become the town’s first Tot Lot.

And now, years later, thanks to more contributions and the willingness of volunteers and workers from the town’s Department of Public Works, a new Tot Lot has risen from the ruins of what remained of the original playground.

It was in June 2014 that the Town Board agreed to back restoration of the Tot Lot when residents Katie Springer and Debbie Speeches initially stepped forward to start a fundraising effort. When Ms. Speeches schedule became tight, Victoria Weslek stepped in to continue the work with Ms. Springer.

Just how much was raised wasn’t available at press time, but the changes to the Tot Lot were estimated at $17,000, with  some contributions coming from playground equipment supplier Gametime, according to Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr.

He and his wife Judy had participated in the original Tot Lot creation — she in helping to raise money and he with other men in the community, preparing the site and putting together the equipment.

Hindsight is a good teacher, Mr. Card said. When the original Tot Lot was created, sand was used as the base. But it proved to be too abrasive. This time, mulch is being used for the surface.

The newly purchased equipment replaces a lot of the original playground equipment that had been exposed to the elements and rusted, Mr. Card said.

The new Tot Lot is now practically finished with only a couple of days work left to be done.

Mr. Card’s crew got a helping hand from three student interns who cooperated in putting equipment together.

“I love the interns,” Mr. Card said about their efforts.

While toddlers can use the Tot Lot now, they and their parents must wait for parts for a couple of pieces of equipment before the new playground is totally finished, Mr. Card said.

“They did an awesome job,” Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik said about the renovated area that is on school-owned property.