A brownish sea of stones gives way to the tannish sandbox and the faded black macadam.
The James Reeb Memorial Community Playground is a bleak palette in a bleak season in what some consider a bleak neighborhood. But the park, just north of Winter Memorial Presbyterian Church, may soon bloom a million shades of green.
The Casper Young Professionals Network is undertaking a drastic rehabilitation of the 1970s-era community play area. The group, an offshoot of Rotary International, intends to haul off the brown stones and black pavement and create a lush landscape with community gardens and a gathering space.
If successful, it will bring old and young, neighborhood residents and parishioners alike onto a patch of nature on the urban grid.
“It really fits into the mission of our church,” said Rev. Debbie Cato, the church's pastor. “Winter Memorial has always been involved in the North Casper neighborhood.”
That is, in fact, how the park came into being. The parcel — about half a block wide and the length of the residential properties — was donated to the church in the 1970s by James Reeb, according to Cato, 53.
But now with part of the park shuttered and more modern play equipment at another park nearby, the James Reeb Memorial Playground is outdated and under-utilized.
About half of the playground is a basketball court with a tall, chain-link fence.
“I believe that it's been closed off for quite a few years,” Cato said. Kids wanting to shoot hoops at night would drive up and shine their vehicles' lights on the court and blast music. So the rim was removed and the court padlocked.
And the playground's competition is only about two blocks north: the city-run Marion Kreiner Park, a sprawling complex of lawn that connects a pool, modern playground, basketball courts and a gazebo. And on the cluttered lawns of nearby homes there are children's bikes, basketball nets and a knotted rope dangling from a tree.
The playground's main draw, according to Cato and others, is the old-school merry-go-round where kids can jump on and spin.
But Nathan Gulbrand, 20, says the play area is mostly used by middle school students to sit and socialize.
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The 20-year-old Casper College engineering student said a refurbished park would provide a needed face-lift for the block.
“That would green it up a little,” said Gulbrand, who lives in small rental house across from the park on St. John Street. “If this looked good it would really help. (It's) kind of a barren wasteland here.”
The CYPN voted on a variety of projects its members brought before the group, first letting members make arguments on behalf of each.
“Like speed dating for picking a project,” said member Jesse Springer, 28.
From there, the group held a public meeting at the church to present ideas for the park and find out what residents and parishioners might want.
The winners: a community garden, an area for benches and horseshoes.
Not as popular: shuffleboard.
Melding the community's choices into a working vision falls to Brandon Daigle, a custom home designer who is taking his exams to become an architect. Daigle, 28 and a member of CYPN who grew up in Casper and recently moved back, originally presented three designs at the meeting.
The rehabilitation is expected to cost between $100,000 and $200,000, according to Daigle.
The CYPN is planning to complete the project piece by piece, so they can work while they raise funds. Their goal, if possible, is to finish by the end of the year.
“If we get it all, we'll just have somebody do it, but if not we'll do it ourselves,” Daigle said. “Which is more likely.”