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Sunday, July 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Portraits

St. Edward Playground

(St. Edward State Park, 14500 Juanita Dr. N.E., Kenmore. Parking fee was recently vamoosed.)

Amazing what some people dream about while out for their morning jog.

Colleen Ponto's vision turned into a spectacular playscape set amongst picnic-friendly fields and forested trails along the shore of Lake Washington.

Designed by children from 11 schools and scout troops (with help from experts) and built by volunteers without money from the state, the 15,000-square-foot Northwest-themed playground has a tree house, ferry-boat sandbox, light house, marimbas, back-hoe digger, touchable Northwest art, hollow cedar-tree tower with cave and ladder, river chimes, turtle drum, submarine, sea plane, whale and frog spin toys, owl-forest climbing net and maze, spider web, volcano slide and tunnel, bald-eagle tower, Mount Rainier rock climb, suspension bridge, totem pole and Sasquatch footprints. Special grips and ramps make this playground accessible for youngsters with disabilities.

Q: How did this get started?

A: I am a neighbor. I run through the park. I was in graduate school at Seattle University. We had a social-justice assignment. The vision was to create a playground so that all children, regardless of their economic means, could play and climb and swing, not just the ones who have it in their backyards.

Q: It's also a great playground for children with disabilities?

A: One of our goals was to make it the most accessible playground. We had a mom on our team who had a differently-abled child who helped us a lot with the design. The playground is built so it has many transfer stations. A child can get out of the wheelchair, grab those transfer stations, and go on up. There's tons of ramping. There's a swing that's a sling. We have children of all shapes, ages, colors, sizes and languages playing here.

Q: How did the actual construction go?

A: It took us seven days and 2,000 volunteers, working 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. We fed them lunch and dinner sponsored by local restaurants. It was really fun, the most exciting week of my life. It was a community barn-raising.

Q: Now that you have your doctorate in education, what's next?

A: I'm creating a proposal for a small environmental high school.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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