OTTUMWA — Mother Nature may not have cooperated on Saturday, but the people who wanted to finish the push for a new playground at Seton Catholic School sure did.

Sarah Abernathy said the work was the culmination of an effort that began about two years ago.

“We started this project in 2017. It started on a whim, almost,” she said.

At that time, questions were being raised about the school’s playground. It wasn’t in great shape. There were concerns about safety and whether the playground was what children at the school needed.

So people began to talk about what could be done. They got in touch with the Legacy Foundation. Other help emerged from 100 Men on a Mission, Rotary and the Wapello Foundation. Dr. Pepper has a program specifically for playgrounds, and that helped.

Playground equipment has changed, too. Insurance companies don’t look favorably on some of the older styles of equipment, and the idea of bare ground, concrete or wood chips keeps them up at night. The more people looked, the more there was to be done.

Slowly, over the past two years, it all came together. On Saturday a crowd unpacked boxes of equipment, bolted it together and installed it. Other cut weather-resistant padding that will cover the old concrete.

“This is the last major piece,” said Abernathy. “There’s still some landscaping we want to put in. It’s come along wonderfully given the weather.”

“It’s a huge community effort,” agreed Lisa Reece.

Volunteers came from each of Ottumwa’s Catholic churches. This wasn’t the only work happening on the ground by St. Mary of the Visitation, either. The project to replace the protective layers over the stained glass windows is wrapping up, with the new layers showing off the windows better than they have been in years.

Amid all the activity there was one group that wasn’t in attendance: students. Abernathy said Seton’s pupils have been anxiously waiting for Saturday, knowing that their playground was about to become a very different place.

“Thy’ve been watching this progress for the past two years,” she said.

And their patience is about to be rewarded.

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Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.