Celebrating Esky’s Harbor Hideout

ESCANABA – Harbor Hideout in Ludington Park was abuzz with children and adults celebrating the playground’s 20th year as a feature in the park with a rededication ceremony Wednesday.

“You have this whole range of ages of people in the community that have an attachment to this thing. It’s really very gratifying,” said Ray Miller of the Harbor Hideout 20th Anniversary Committee. He was also active in the creation of the playground in 1993.

More than 1,200 community members and volunteers worked to build the playground in 1993. While the exact cost of building the playground is unknown, the Project Playground Committee spent $95,000 on the project. Including the donated time, services, and materials, the value of the project is estimated to be over $250,000.

“When we first built the playground we set aside a large portion of money – the maintenance fund for the playground – and over the years you can see how well the playground has been maintained by the city,” said Miller.

Twenty years ago, when the playground equipment was new, the Playground Project Committee put $14,000 into the Community Foundation. The funds from that portion of the foundation are applied to the maintenance costs of the equipment.

“I think it’s our responsibility and the the next generation’s responsibility to make sure that Harbor Hideout basically continues for the next 20 years,” said Tony Schomin, former Escanaba parks and recreation director.

In addition to the initial investment, the Harbor Hideout 20th Anniversary Committee will be adding around $2,000 to the Community Foundation funds, thanks to a backyard playground equipment raffle held during the rededication.

Kindergarten through sixth-grade students were asked to design their own playground equipment. Using the designs for inspiration, the committee designed and constructed backyard playground equipment using materials provided by Menards at cost.

The playground set was put on display during esky150 activities, was used as a float in the parade Friday, and was raffled off during the rededication. The winner of the raffle was Darcy Winkowski.

In addition to helping the committee design the playground equipment to be raffled off, the drawings of playground equipment were judged. The winning drawing, by Karly Van Drese, was used as the logo for the Harbor Hideout 20th Anniversary celebration.

“You have this whole range of ages of people in the community that have an attachment to this thing. It’s really very gratifying,” said Miller.

Adults who were involved in the project in the early 1990s also turned out for the rededication ceremony including former Escanaba Mayor Charles Vader and former foreman on the project Father Allen Mott, who preformed the blessing.

“It is heartwarming and unique that 20 years later there are those that are still active and concerned enough to ensure (Harbor Hideout’s) continued existence,” said Vader.

Many of the people involved with the project noted that Harbor Hideout is special in that it has touched so many individuals – including children, parents, and grandchildren.

“On a personal and professional level, of all the projects in the 30 years that I’ve worked with the city of Escanaba, this project by far was the most satisfying because it ended up impacting probably the … greatest number of individuals,” said Schomin.