Originally published in Rock Products by Therese Dunphy
Granite Construction’s Alaska Team answered the call for help when the Taniana Child Care Development Center in Anchorage needed assistance to transform a tired, bare dirt playground into a safe and fun environment.
David Laster, a Granite environmental manager, said he learned of the project through an environmental consultant who works with the company on various issues such as training and permits. “She knew that it was a great opportunity and asked if we would be interested in helping out,” he said. “We jumped on it immediately.”
The Alaska Team typically takes on volunteer projects each year and this one, for a non-profit that serves the child care needs of the Alaska Regional Hospital staff, fits well with the company’s culture of giving back to the communities it serves.
Planning for Play
Last spring, Laster and a Granite estimator met with representatives from the center, including a parent who had created conceptual drawings of what they hoped to build. They created a supplies list and budget for the project and submitted it to the center’s board of directors for approval. Over the next couple of months, volunteers were rounded up and a parent volunteer who owned a clearing business removed some trees at the site in preparation for the overall project.
By the fall, construction was ready to begin, and Granite took the lead on coordinating the project. “Our construction manager helped pull together people who had some time available,” Laster said. “We picked a date and our dispatcher helped coordinate getting all the equipment and trucking going.”
He noted that because the company was still in the midst of its peak production season, he didn’t anticipate a big response to the request for volunteers but was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who turned out to help.
“Most of the people who were there came because it was a volunteer opportunity that they were happy to do,” Laster said. “We try to do at least one big group activity every year, and a lot of the people here really enjoy getting out to do that kind of thing. Community service is part of our culture here at Granite.” The crew of Granite volunteers was joined by a smaller contingent of parents.
Together, volunteers rolled out 600 sq. yd. of geotextile fabric, spread 138 tons of pea gravel, and paved an asphalt path for bikes and scooters. Granite donated all these materials as well as labor for the project. “We kind of just knocked it out,” Laster recalled. “It took a full day, but we got everything done.”
The end result is a safe, usable playground featuring a less steep slope than prior to construction as well as an impact surface that will allow the center to add a climbing structure in the future. Finally, it includes a path around the perimeter for bikes, scooters, and strollers, which turned out to be a big hit with the kids. Before the project was even completed, two children – whose parents were volunteering with construction – arrived near the end of the day to help with finishing touches.
“It was pretty funny,” Laster said. “They wanted to get on the bike path before it had even cooled down. They were very excited about it.”
The kids weren’t the only ones who were thrilled about the newly improved playground. Before the project, parents often sent two to three sets of clothes with their children each day because they got so dirty on the old playground, particularly when wet weather made for muddy conditions. “All of the parents were ecstatic,” Laster said. “When they saw the finished product, they were very, very happy.”
The center itself was also quite appreciative of the company’s efforts. It posted pictures of volunteer efforts throughout the day on its Facebook page and acknowledged the company’s contribution in its post. “We’re really thankful for Granite’s help,” said Amanda Smodey, the center’s executive director.
“I’m proud of the Alaska team members who do a community project each year,” noted Derek Betts, vice president of Alaska operations. “It’s part of our culture to be able to give back to the communities that we live and work in.”