Bill Beck Park’s ‘built in a day’ dream playground open for child play in El Cajon

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Cece Butcher described the way Bill Beck Park used to look. The El Cajon mother of two says that the park held a rusty slide and old swings, alongside a deteriorated basketball court.

“There were always lots of homeless people in sleeping bags on the grass,” she said.

Cece Butcher described the way Bill Beck Park used to look. The El Cajon mother of two says that the park held a rusty slide and old swings, alongside a deteriorated basketball court.

“There were always lots of homeless people in sleeping bags on the grass,” she said.

More than 200 volunteers had gathered on June 20, for “Build Day” at Bill Beck Park. Within 5.5 that day, the brightly colored elements of a new play space were installed. The design for the rebuilding was derived from drawings area children made in April, when they were asked to depict a “dream playground” they would love to play in.

Butcher brought her children, Molly and John, to opening day at the rebuilt Bill Beck Park on July 2. Molly is 6, and John is 10. The first play station that caught their attention was a stationary vertical game called “Spin Racer.” After that, the brother and sister tried out the “accelerator” swing set.

“This is a huge improvement,” Cece Butcher said. She said that although this is the closest play park to the family’s El Cajon home, they “never used to stop here.” She expects to visit the rebuilt playground a few times each month now.

Guinet Ramirez has lived across the street from Bill Beck Park for five years, with her three children, Cesar, 12, Matthew, 11, and Megan, 7. The Ramirez family also spent time there on the morning of the playground’s first open day, playing on the new equipment. What did her kids enjoy most?

“They like the merry-go-round best,” Ramirez said. “And they also like the swings.”

Ramirez was exploring the new adult fitness equipment, which was put in place to facilitate families playing and being active together.

“I like the exercise equipment,” she said. “I may even cancel my gym membership, because this is so good.”

She was referring to the seven newly installed activity stations, including a push up bar, horizontal bars, sit up board, seated chest press, and recumbent bike.

This project was third in a series of one-day playground rebuilding efforts in El Cajon under the umbrella sponsorship of KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization with the mission of bringing balanced, active play into the daily lives of all kids. Those volunteering for Build Day came from the City of El Cajon’s Recreation Department and from funding and support organizations partnering to accomplish the project. These organizations were the Foresters financial services provider, Stoney’s Kids, and the Kiwanis Club of El Cajon Valley.

Bill Beck Park is located at 543 N. Pierce Street. The refurbished play space is expected to endure over a 15-year span, serving the need for safe play for more than 13,275 children and their families in the community.

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