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Playground welcomed back to Hart Park

May 25, 2012

Denise Manthey and her daughter Annika have already visited the Hart Park playground five times and it has been open only two days.

"The hour after the construction fence came down, we were here," she said.

At 1 1/2 , Annika is fearless, taking on the slide in the area for younger children, as well as the steeper slides included in the play equipment for ages 5 to 12.

Manthey and her children - she also has a second-grader who was in school Thursday afternoon - have eagerly awaited the playground opening. They live only two blocks from Hart Park and plan to spend a lot of time on the playground this summer, especially when the splash pad opens.

Manthey recalls the old play equipment farther west in the park that was removed years ago to allow for a flood mitigation project. Her older children, now 12 and 14, played there for a few years before it came down.

Bringing a playground back to the park makes sense and helps develop the east end, which is already home to the Rotary Park Pavilion.

There's been a lot of focus on developing the athletic facilities on the west end and this will "make sure the park development project is very diverse," said Tom Ertel, city Parks and Forestry Board president.

The project has already received approval from 3-year-old Grant Nickel, who was asking for a return trip after five minutes on the equipment, said his nanny Pat McLaughlin.

"If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is," she said, adding that he had kept himself busy more than 90 minutes, much of it in the hollowed canoe.

The theme of the playground at 70th and State streets is pre-settlement Wauwatosa with tributes to the Menonomee River, Native Americans and the Schoonmaker Reef.

She was impressed by the rubber base underneath the play equipment, which would help prevent injuries from falls. The boys seem to like to climb the rocks and walk the logs that serve as balance beams, she said.

Nick Rebholz, 5, was met with a surprise in the cave underneath the Eagle's Nest. A bear's face was carved into side.

His mother Betsy Rebholz sees him making many summer memories in the park.

"It just keeps getting better here," she said. "We'll use it when we come for (Tosa Tonight) concerts in the park," she said.

The playground, which cost a bit less than $1 million to build, was designed by local resident Ed Haydin, an architect with Engberg Anderson, and built by Wauwatosa construction firm Selzer-Ornst.

The city will hold a playground grand opening celebration at 1 p.m. June 8.

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