Playground rebuilt nearly one year after arson

Nearly a year after it burnt to the ground, a park on South Bend’s west side is getting a new playground.

Last July, Friendship Station playground in Belleville Park was destroyed by arson. The South Bend Fire Department never caught the person responsible.

The wooden playground was built five years earlier by the Rotary Club and a group of volunteers. They spent hours hammering away so kids in the neighborhood would have a safe place to play.

After the fire, all that was left of Friendship Station was a few swings.

But in June, the South Bend Parks Department started putting up new, fire-resistant equipment.

“This time around we looked for something that offered all the venues the old friendship station had, but with a little different material structure that would make it less prone to the problems we had with the last one,” said Parks Director Phil St. Clair.

Most of the $120,000 cost is being covered by insurance money from the fire.

The city is saving some money by having Parks Department crews install the new equipment instead of bidding the work out.

It will take about three weeks before the playground is complete. St. Clair says, weather permitting, crews are aiming for July 7.

He’s hoping the community will help ensure the playground doesn’t meet a fate similar to last summer’s.

“Negative behavior with graffiti and vandalism only hurts the community,” he said.
“And it's the community you live in. And it would be a good idea to be part of that positive part of the community, do the right thing.”

The first day equipment was installed, St. Clair says someone tagged it with graffiti, but crews were able to remove it quickly.

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