By Tim Leeds
The two people who manage family housing for Montana State University-Northern students are looking for some help to build a new and safe children's playground.
Carissa Tielking said Monday she and her husband, Don, are trying to replace the equipment at the R.O. Morgan Playground with modern equipment and meet all federal requirements for safety and accessibility for the disabled.
"We're trying to actually make it into a real playground," she said.
The playground was dedicated to R.O. Morgan in 1982 by the students in Family Housing. Carissa said Morgan and his wife, Georgian, were students at Northern and living in Family Housing when he died of a massive heart attack on Nov. 3, 1981. He was 57 and she was 56.
The kids in the housing loved R.O. so much, like a grandfather figure, that the students thought it was right to dedicate the playground to him, Carissa said. Georgian makes a contribution to the R.O. Morgan Foundation for the playground every year, but it isn't enough to take care of all its problems, she added.
The new equipment needs to meet federal guidelines, and the surface beneath the equipment needs to meet guidelines to help prevent injury if a child falls.
The equipment at the playground fails to meet those guidelines, she said. It consists of a small basketball court, "a dilapidated sandbox, a broken-down swing set and a horizontal bar," she said. Many of the parents in Family Housing won't let their kids use it because they are afraid for their children's safety, she said. They are supporting the Tielkings, who are also student parents, in their efforts.
She said she and Don spend a lot of time filling gopher holes on the playground. If the playground were properly surfaced, that would prevent much of that problem, she said.
Carissa said they have picked out a playground set marketed by Rocky Mountain Recreation and Sports of Salt Lake City. She said they have applied for grants to help pay for it.
Don said the equipment costs about $20,000, not including landscaping and surfacing the playground. They are looking for people to help out with a lot of that work.
The grants they are applying for require matches from the applicant, but donated labor and equipment count toward that match, Carissa said.
"That's what I think a lot of the people up here are going to do is the dirt and shovel work," Don said.
The Student Housing Association and Students in Free Enterprise at the university have shown interest in helping with volunteer labor. Carissa said members of the Northern Lights football team have volunteered to help remove the old equipment.
"The more people we have helping the better," she said.
Don said they would be grateful for any help they could get for the project. "Any way people could help out, if they could lend a hand or lend their checkbook, we would take either one," he said.
Their goal is to have the old equipment removed, leaving only the basketball court, and have the ground work done before winter. That way the work can begin on the playground next spring to have it ready by summer, she said.
Carissa said she and Don want to to add picnic tables and benches and are considering barbecue pits for the parents to use while their children play.
Carissa said people can call her or Don at 265-1250 for more information or to pledge donations, or can donate money to the R.O. Morgan Foundation at the Montana State University-Northern Foundation, 265-3711.