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Things looking up for preserving iconic Castle Park

LANGLEY — A solution may have been found to save the signature wooden Castle Park from being replaced with a plastic replica: a roof.

Clinton’s Jeff Smith has a wood restoration business called the Cedar Doctor. He was asked by parks director Terri Arnold to examine Castle Park and offer his opinions to South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District commissioners.

Erected by volunteers in 1991, the structure has deteriorated over the years from weather damage and the added wear-and-tear of thousands of children climbing through and over the expansive structure’s wooden spaces.

“My initial thought was it makes sense to replace it with a plastic structure, but then I got to thinking that a roof, combined with something called boron inserts, might do the trick,” Smith said.

Not just any flat roof, but one that duplicates the soaring curves and appearance of a castle, yet provides year-round protection from the elements.

“You’d need to dig in underneath some of the platforms and replace rusting stainless-steel fasteners, but the cedar poles are in excellent shape,” Smith told parks officials at their last meeting. “Rainwater catchment basins could be used to provide storm drainage to other parts of the park. The structure could be used on rainy days — of which we have a few — and a roof would triple the life of the park.”

Smith also said boron rods could be used to keep moisture from rising from the wet ground. The thin rod is drilled into the wood where it slowly dissolves in the presence of water, releasing a non-toxic preservative that gets naturally distributed.

Park maintenance manager Tom Fallon said the idea has merit.

“I’d be concerned about the park being a little dark,” he said. “But we could provide skylights to allow sufficient natural light.”

Every day, Fallon and park staff must check the bottom of the posts for rot, repair old tires, replace nuts and bolts and remove splinters that could hurt kids. Fungus is growing on the wooden floor treads.

Earlier this year, the district planned to tear down the structure and replace it with a similar castle-themed playground made of recycled plastic that looks like wood. That idea didn’t go over with residents and the district began a search for other solutions.

Park Commissioner Ron Wood liked the idea of a roof, provided it equaled the aesthetic quality of the current structure.

“If there’s a way to improve what we have now, we need to take a look at it,” Wood said.

Program coordinator Carrie Monforte has some ideas for a roofed Castle Park.

“I’m thinking we could have an aerobics exercise program for parents and their children,” she said. “And it would be offered all through the year; we could schedule play groups summer and winter.”

Arnold later said the search continues for a workable, cost-effective solution.

“Jeff’s analysis is part of our exploration to save the park in response to the people who built it and use it,” she said.

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