Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wise Owl: February 12, 2016

February 12, 2016

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

UPP Gala Fundraiser This Saturday Night!  It's finally here, and just in time for our first real cold snap of the year!  It's also not too late to get tickets - the Gala will clearly be the place to be in Montpelier this Saturday night!  Please join us this weekend for one of the biggest events of the winter!

Here are some details for those who don't know:

The Gala will take place on Saturday, February 13 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Alumni Hall.  Doors will open at 6:30, and the Dave Keller Band will be playing from 9:30 to 11:00.  Prior to the music and dancing, attendees can check out the over 100 items that will be auctioned to raise money for the project!  The auctions will begin when the doors open and go until about 9:00.  Following a brief film about the project, the band will kick in and the real fun will begin!

Some other details:

*  Tickets are available at the door for $25.  Cash, credit cards and checks will be accepted.
*  Three Penny Tap Room will have a cash bar going.  Please have a valid picture ID with you!
*  Savory & Sweet snacks will be served at the event, but it's recommended that folks eat dinner before attending.
*  Some of the auction items include (and this is just a partial list!):

1. 2016 Family Pool Pass to the Montpelier Rec Pool
2. A Day in Burlington-Lunch at the Juniper Restaurant and a Scenic Boat Tour of Lake Champlain on the Spirit of the Ethan Allen for two.
3. 2016 Family Season Pass for 2 adults and 2 children for the Vermont Mountaineers
4. Meet the Vermont Mountaineers General Manager Brian Gallagher  during a pre-game batting practice to throw a few balls in the Outfield. Mingle with the players and go home with an autographed 2016 Mountaineers team signed baseball. Also receive a Vermont Mountaineers 2015 team baseball card set, and a team photo with a team signed envelope!
5. Join the Montpelier Fire Department for a Positive Pie Dinner around their dining table at The Montpelier Fire Station.
6. Win a chance to be Mr. Hennessey's Assistant Principal for the day!

Wow!  We really hope you all can join us!  It promises to be such a fun night, and the cause couldn't be better or more important for our community!  I will have a long list of thank you's and kudos to share tomorrow night, but I'd like to give a shout out to UES moms and dads Jenny Sheehan, Kristin Darcy, Jody Andreoletti, and Jeffrey Ferrel along with UES teachers Theresa Giffin, Samantha Funk, and Kristina Kane and MHS student Levi Beavin for their absolutely tireless efforts in putting this event together! 

Speaking of the cause, UES mom Sarah McKernan has put together a nice summary of the Union Playground Project that perfectly captures the scope and status of the work, which I share with you below.  Thank you, Sarah!

What’s UPP with the Playground Project?

Project Summary

The Union Elementary School Playground Project will renovate, repair and significantly improve the main playground in the City of Montpelier, a site that is used by more than 400 children from our school and community every day during the school year.

The UES Administration and parents are working together to plan a new playground with better site design, new features and natural materials to create a space full of things for our kids to explore, play on and learn about.  Imagine gardening beds, spaces for quiet activities, a rebuilt outdoor classroom and performance space, and many new and creative structures that will fully engage our children’s imaginations.

Progress in 2015


We won a $150,000 grant from the State of Vermont’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports recreational projects.  This grant to the Montpelier School District must be matched by $150,000 ($ and in-kind contributions) from our community.

We have raised over $20,000 towards this match already from the many generous people and businesses in our community.  


A core team including our Principal, school staff and parents have been assessing problems on the site – such as stormwater and erosion – with the help of experts

We have gathered ideas from every classroom at the school and many teachers and parents to create a vision of a natural playground filled with new play spaces and features. It will have more opportunities for safe climbing, jumping and swinging, more opportunities to bring learning outside, more plants, creative uses of improved  hillsides and forest, and more inviting spaces for kids and parents to sit, read and talk. Our children need, want and deserve this kind of playground! 


A UVM landscape architecture class taught by Montpelier resident Stephanie Hurley developed great design ideas this fall – view them at our Facebook site!

In December, parents and community members were invited to an UPP Open House to explore and provide input on a wide array of imaginative ideas for our playground.  Now we are hiring a playground designer to help us move to a final design.

Do We Really Need to Rebuild the Playground?

It has been more than 20 years since the playground was renovated.  The urgency is great!

*  The play equipment is old, and each time it needs to be repaired, literally thousands of dollars are spent.
*  Problems with storm water runoff and ponding on the site cause safety hazards and pollute the Winooski River.  That’s why the site will be identified as a priority location in the City’s new Storm Water Master Plan.
*  The amphitheater on the site is failing due to groundwater flow, and it must be rebuilt.
*  New pre-schoolers are arriving this fall, and a lower playground with features and activities that can engage them in play and learning are sorely needed.

What Happens Next?

This spring, the Montpelier School District will work with the UPP Core Team to hire a designer and finalize a design and budget.  

Every dollar we raise helps us reach our required match for the $150,000 state grant. We may need to raise more than this (playgrounds are expensive!); we will know this once a budget and final design are complete.

We plan to break ground this summer on a first round of improvements to the Upper and Lower playground.  A bigger Phase 2 is planned for summer 2017

How Can I Help?

There are many ways to get involved in this exciting project.

We need interested parents to join our UPP project committees working on fundraising, design, and communications (web site, marketing packets for large businesses etc.)

Later this spring, we will invite you to come hear about the proposed Union playground design!

And when we build, we will make significant use of community labor!  So please come out and lend a hand.

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