BREMERTON — Don’t think of it as a jungle gym, monkey bars or the classic “playground structure.” Think of it as a recruiting tool for the pilots, engineers and crews who’ll become part of aviation’s future.
At the Bremerton Port Commission’s regular meeting Aug. 9, the commission unveiled a children’s playground designed to pique the young imagination.
“Kids are naturally drawn to airplanes,” said Fred Salisbury, director of airport operations for the Port of Bremerton National Airport. “We see it all the time — parents will drive their kids down here just so (they) can hang on the fence and watch the planes take off and land. Now they have a safe and controlled environment to do that. By installing an aviation-themed playground area, we’re really trying to encourage their interest.”
Far from a flight of fancy, the playground addresses a critical need within the aviation industry. Industry leaders from Boeing, the airlines, aerospace engineering firms and elsewhere all point to a critical future shortage of talent waiting to get into the business.
Encouraging young people to pursue their passion for flight is something that has occupied Salisbury’s time for awhile.
“Boeing and all of the airlines say that there is going to be a massive shortage of engineers, pilots, etc.” Salisbury says. “This is a way of getting kids interested in aviation at a very young age.”
The new playground is located between the airport terminal and Airport Diner, in plain view of Highway 3 and right along the runway. Painted navy and red, it allows kids to play on airplane-shaped equipment, all the while enjoying the unobstructed view of airport flight operations.
The impetus for this project, Salisbury said, was actually just right down the road in Port Orchard. He noticed the great success and popularity of the children’s park at the Port Orchard Marina. That project was updated both by the Port and with donations from Soroptimist International of Port Orchard. The Port Orchard park sees visitors traveling from neighboring towns daily to use the facility.
The airport playground layout was provided by Landscape Structures’ local affiliate PlayCreation, Inc. PlayCreation put in Bremerton’s Evergreen Rotary Park Playground in 2014 and has worked on playgrounds in Tacoma and Seattle, as well as Crescent Creek Park in Gig Harbor.
The playground design simulates an airport runway and taxiway with a unique pour-in-place rubberized turf with artificial grass to play on. The equipment is fashioned like airplanes and helicopters with a large climbing structure that resembles an air traffic control tower, complete with a wind sock.
Another aviation-themed aspect of the playground is a talk tube from the “control tower” down to another part of the structure to simulate pilots speaking from an aircraft.
Easton Construction Group provided the airport site preparation, including excavation and pouring the concrete surface. PlayCreation subcontractors R&R
Construction, LW Sundstrom and ForeverLawn of Washington completed the installation. A surrounding fence provides a bit more safety and ease of parental monitoring.
The project received funding through a combination of private contributions and Port capital project funds.