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August 01, 2014

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Landscape architect Ron Cutlip, right, discusses plans for the new Blowing Rock School playground with a member of Boy Scout Troop 101, one of the organizations committed to helping construct the project. Photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2014-03-08 15:58:16
Last modified: 2014-03-08 15:59:02

Vision for playground shared

Ron Cutlip has spent more than two decades planning outdoor spaces for golf courses, parks and Manhattan green spaces.

Now, the landscape architect is using his skills in his new home of Blowing Rock.

“It’s exciting to be involved in a project in my adopted hometown of the last three years,” said Cutlip, speaking to a group of about 40 people inside the Blowing Rock School Auditorium Feb. 27.

The group had gathered to hear Cutlip speak and deliver a PowerPoint presentation about the ongoing Blowing Rock School playground rejuvenation project.

“We want to have a playground that is both fun and safe,” Cutlip said. “New technology will bring down the percentage of broken bones and fractures suffered in the playground. The old playground has broken walls, drainage problems and steps that are in disrepair. It is time for it to be rejuvenated.”

Cutlip explained to the crowd how he had asked art teachers at Blowing Rock School to assign the students a project where they would design and draw their dream playground. Some of the recurring themes in the students’ drawings were a treehouse, ponds and creeks, climbing towers, swinging bridges and zip lines.

“We incorporated their dreams in our design,” he said.

Cutlip’s design for the new playground includes a treehouselike structure surrounded by timber beams that would support swings and other playground equipment, a 125-seat outdoor education center/amphitheater, new walls and sidewalk and other amenities.

“This playground has a theme and that theme is Blowing Rock,” Cutlip said. “We are utilizing stonewalls and locally-made pressure treated hemlock. The treehouse will be the focal point and will be made locally, putting money back into our local economy. It is less expensive and more creative than anything we could’ve gotten out of a catalog.”

Cutlip said that he wanted to capture a rustic outdoor spirit with the design of the outdoor classroom facility, complete with long hemlock benches.

All of the areas of the newly designed playground are handicapped accessible. And Cutlip has moved the entrances to the playground away from the main parking lot in front of the school.

Poured plastic and rubber mats will be laid under much of the playground equipment. Their blue color will made to look like water.

“These mats are guaranteed for five years, but they will last 15 years before the top layer will have to be replaced,” Cutlip said.

Although it is not a part of the new design, Cutlip said that he could see a men’s and women’s restroom facility being part of the new playground.

According to Cutlip’s calculations, the newly renovated playground would cost an estimated $200,000 and the amphitheater would cost $150,000 to build.

“Many people in the community have already committed to donate their time, labor and materials to the project, so the final cost will be much lower than that,” he said.

According to Kevin Tincher of the Blowing Rock School Parent Teacher Organization, the organization currently has $6,413 in the playground fund, but that donations of materials and money from local construction firms could knock off at least $100,000 of the total estimated cost of the project.

Cutlip said that he has been in contact with various agencies, such as the Watauga County school board, Blowing Rock Planning Department and Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue about the project, mainly through Blowing Rock School Principal Patrick Suko.

Present at the playground project meeting were Blowing Rock Commissioners Sue Sweeting, Doug Matheson and Ray Pickett, Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue Chief Kent Graham, Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Fogleman, Billie Rogers of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, and Blowing Rock School PTO president Kelly Daughty.

According to Cutlip, the playground rejuvenation project could begin as early as June of this year and construction on the amphitheater could begin in August or September.

“We are not going to get any help from the school board, we have to do this for ourselves,” Cutlip said.

“This is a huge gift to that property. I want us to be the leader in the project, not the follower,” he said.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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