Panther Park lives on

Posted October 31, 2013 at 10:50 am

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PHOTO: After the Panther Park auction on May 22, Colin and Lindsay Ryan had just a few days to dismantle their portion of the playground before they took a family trip to Ireland earlier this summer. (Photo submitted)

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PHOTO: The Randolph and Ryan families enjoy one of the last decent days of fall on their new playground, which was purchased at the Panther Park auction on May 22 this year. The Ryans purchased a large piece of the playground equipment and resurrected it in their backyard for daughter Aisling to enjoy. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

Twenty years after Panther Park behind Shannon Elementary School was erected, the public attended an auction on May 22 to bid on various sections of the playground equipment.

About 30 people were present to try and bid on pieces of the community park, including parents Lindsay and Colin Ryan.

A playground auction is not your typical auction. Many didn’t know how things were going to pan out, how bidding would go or which sections would go together.

“Before I made up my mind, I called Colin to make sure it was okay for me to bid,” Lindsay confessed. “The piece I wanted ended up being a lot bigger than I anticipated.”

Growing up in Monticello, Lindsay said she used to play at Panther Park and always had so much fun with friends there.

The Ryans ended up successfully bidding on a large section of the playground equipment that included two blue tunnels and two castle-like towers.

“It fits perfectly in our backyard,” she said of the 34 feet by 9 feet section.

After the auction, most recipients had a couple of weeks to dismantle their sections and relocate the playground equipment to a new home. The Ryans had just a couple of days before they were set to leave the country for Ireland to visit Colin’s family. They enlisted help from family and friends to meet at Panther Park, take everything apart, haul it all to their home and unload the pieces.

“It took us eight hours to take it all down,” said Colin, who praised Lindsay’s dad, Creighton Randolph, for his expertise.

“We took it down piece by piece then came home and packed our bags,” said Lindsay.

Knowing what they had to work with, Lindsay drew out plans for how she wanted the new playground to look in their backyard for daughter Aisling.

“I used all original parts and redesigned it. I brainstormed and my dad went from there.” She said they had to lower the height of the base so it was feasible for Aisling to use. They also chose to rebuild it under a giant shade tree so the equipment didn’t get too hot in the summer.

Creighton took on the project while the Ryans were in Ireland. “I had a lot of doubt at first,” admitted Creighton of taking on such a big project. “But Lindsay believed in me and we got it done.” Creighton has done many construction projects over the years and used to work with H&H Homecrafters. “I learned a lot. If I don’t continue to use my abilities, I’ll lose them.”

“Creighton is definitely the master craftsman,” Colin complimented his father-in-law.

It took about nine to 10 weeks to completely polish the project off. They re-sanded and re-stained the wood, turning the unused side up for a newer surface. One of the tunnels was turned into a slide for little Aisling to use. A swing set was added on as well as a mock kitchen where Aisling can play in the tub (sink). They painted a wall with chalkboard paint to allow Aisling to use her creativity.

“It was definitely cheaper than building from scratch and buying all of the lumber,” said Lindsay.

As one of the fourth grade teachers at Carpenter Elementary School in Monticello, Lindsay said it means so much to have this great connection to the school district’s history right in her own backyard.

“It meant a lot that we could help contribute toward a new playground,” she said. All of the funds raised at the auction went toward new updated equipment for Panther Park.

Colin added, “As parents we can still keep that childhood spirit alive with Aisling enjoying it.”

Creighton also has a personal connection to Panther Park. In 1993 when the school district was working on building Panther Park, he had a hand in helping to secure a grant from the R.J. McElroy Trust.

Watching Aisling walk around her new playground in her very own backyard brings a smile to Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma’s faces.

“It’s fun for her,” said Lindsay. “She loves to walk up and down the steps. She’s not quite brave enough yet to try the slide.”