April 20, 2017


M.E. Steelman

Chair, Christian Education Committee


Over 16 years ago Derry Church was blessed with the addition of a playground for our youth to enjoy.  At the time no one knew just how iconic the Ark structure would become for Derry. Not only did it provide years of fun for kids to play, an area where the Scouts could enjoy ceremonies and social time, a safe area for our preschool students to run about and an area where the community could gather to enjoy time with their children, but it also became a loved backdrop for photos and a landmark that the entire community recognized.

After 16 years of fun, the wooden structures that make up this area have become rotten and are not able to be repaired or repurposed in a way that would meet the safety standards that exist today. In March 2016, Derry Church established the Playground Taskforce and gave them the goal of creating a plan for our church playground. Careful consideration was given when creating this task force to be sure that all areas of the church family that would be affected by the playground changes would be represented. Our Playground Task force members are Jim Carns (Stewardship and Finance), Debbie Hough (Director of Christian Education), Tom Kitzmiller (Buildings and Grounds), Jackie Lerch (Youth Director), Kelly Mehaffie (Derry Discovery Days Preschool), M.E. Steelman (Christian Education) and Roger Zimmer (Business Manager).

During the past year the Playground Taskforce has met monthly to discuss all options for the area. Once we all agreed on a plan, we talked with various businesses to determine the cost of our ideas.  Last month our task force presented a formal proposal to Session and Session voted to proceed with our design. Funding for this project was carefully considered and it was decided that a combination of monies from the Futures Fund and Derry Discovery Days would be used to pay for the expenses.

Now the fun begins and we all get to watch as the transformation of our current playground takes place. The repurposed area will be the same overall size, but it will be divided into two sections.  The upper section -- designed for children up to age six -- will have an artificial surface that will provide the proper padding needed to meet today’s fall standards and be easy to clear of all debris that can cause choking hazards. This area will include a climbing structure for our youngest friends to enjoy.  The lower section of the playground will be designed for all ages.  This area will include a permanent Ga-Ga Pit and picnic tables for our groups to enjoy for Sunday School, meetings, picnics and social time. Both areas will have benches and simple landscaping that help to provide beauty but also be low maintenance.

The Playground Taskforce is very excited to see all our efforts come together and create a play area similar to what we have been blessed with for so many years. Our hope is for all ages, groups and organizations connected with Derry Church to have an area where they can continue to grow in faith and friendship.

We’ve started gathering names of people who helped to build the original ark in preparation for a celebration later: send those names and photos to Debbie Hough. If you have any questions, we encourage you to talk with any of our task force members. May God bless all the hands that had worked to create this area in the beginning, all who are working to design the new area, and all who will be working during the transformation process.


Editor’s note: The photo at top was taken in 2000 when the ark was dedicated. Children pictured are now young adults: (L-R) Dan Kinney, Claire Folts, Matt George, Jack Dearing, Wade Spooner and Ian Anderson, with Matthew Speck on the slide. On Easter Sunday, Matt George, Ian Anderson and Matt Speck were on hand to pose for a second picture and show us, better than words can express, just how much time has passed since the ark was built.