As Bryant Denk tells the story, in the fall of 1984, a group of parents asked the PTO to look into replacing a splintered sandbox on the playground. While examining the sandbox, the PTO members noticed the granite-like clay beneath the swings and slide, the deteriorating basketball court, etc. and decided a whole new playground was needed. Marilyn Denk was PTO President at the time and she convinced her husband Bryant to Co-Chair the first Playspace Committee with Brad McConky.
Over the next year, the committee researched and visited many playgrounds in MA, NY, VT, and NH. A special on NBC-TV’s “Evening Magazine” and articles in Parents Magazine, Women’s Day, and National Geographic’s World led to the choice of architect Robert Leathers who had built over 250 children’s playgrounds. Mr. Leathers came to Hanover for a Design Day, a chance to see Ray students’ design ideas and to hear their suggestions for a new playground.
Using the students’ ideas, Leathers designed a wooden castle structure with three turrets, a rubber bridge to bounce on, and single, double, and corkscrew slides. Once the design was completed and approved, it was time to raise the money to make the design a reality.
By September, the School Board charged a new Playspace Committee to “study the current needs of the Ray School Playground and to bring a recommendation for renovation to the Board by January. School Board member Becky Torrey agreed to chair the new committee. Under her leadership, the Playspace II Committee met 14 times between September and January and then made the following recommendation to the School Board: “Based on the substandard condition of Playspace, the existing structure should be dismantled and removed. Playground Structures of Speonk, NY should be hired to design and oversee the construction of a new prefabricated playground which should be built no later than the Spring of 1997.”
The company, Playground Structures incorporated the design idea of the popular turrets that had been a much loved part of the Playspace I design. Once again, fundraising began for the estimated $68,900 needed for the new playground. PTO President Randi Hallarman and parents Heidi Eldred and Carolyn Mertz headed up the fundraising. The School Board gave $10,000 and a special warrant at Town Meeting in May was approved by the voters to add another $10,000 to the project. Helping with the warrant effort was Playground Committee member Willy Black, then Chair of the Hanover Board of Selectmen and former Ray School teacher and member of the Playspace I Committee.