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Major upgrade set for Humiston Park

STORY BY BY MARY SCHENKEL (Week of January 22, 2015)

An all-volunteer group, GoPlayVero, has started raising $250,000 to upgrade the playground at Humiston Park in collaboration with the city in a project both sides say can be a model for future partnerships to improve parks and recreation facilities.

The current project envisions removing the present children’s playground equipment by May and completing all site work and reinstallation of new apparatus during September, when the community would be impacted the least. Humiston is extensively used during the busy tourist and snowbird season and all work would be completed in time for the next season. 

One of the driving forces behind GoPlayVero, Kelley Della Porta, a mother of three, says she started the organization two years ago after she was frustrated to learn that the city’s $1 million renovation of Humiston Park in 2009 included virtually nothing for the playground there, only a reconfiguration of its outline into the shape of a turtle. The city money went to a curved garden wall, an enhanced northern entrance, landscaping and reoriented parking.

“We had thought, ‘Great, we’re going to get new playground equipment,’ but that was never part of the project,” Della Porta recalls. She said Humiston Park is probably “the jewel of our playground system, and it does not currently reflect our commitment to the young people of the community.”

She said she was angry when she first called City Recreation Director Rob Slezak, who “graciously allowed me to puff my feathers and blow off steam,” but the two eventually started a conversation about what the city and private groups could do together to improve playgrounds. 

“We’re working in conjunction; we’re partners on this project. We’re going to work arm in arm,” said City Manager Jim O’Connor.  “We’ve been involved from the beginning, and Monty Falls, our public works director who maintains the parks, has been working closely with Kelley to make sure that needed permits will be addressed. We’re totally supportive, so we’ll help get through any obstacles.” 

“The city has been very generous and wonderful to work with,” Della Porta agreed.

The city will pay for concrete work and site enhancements out of its regular operating budget, while playground equipment and other materials will be funded through private donations. Vero Beach Auto Elite provided an initial donation for start-up costs and Tom and Carol Corr kick-started fundraising with a donation in memory of his mother to provide shading over the equipment and swings.  

“These are the type of projects the city really likes, in which the community buys in and becomes a participant,” said O’Connor, referring to other partnerships such as the 14th Ave. Fountain, Royal Palm Pointe Fountain and Leisure Square Poolside Pavilion. 

“We want families to come and participate,” O’Connor added. “The good thing about Humiston Park is it brings people from both the mainland and the beachside. It is a full community activity and that’s what we’re trying to enhance. We have picnic areas, shaded areas, tables – even for seniors who can sit and enjoy it. The only thing that makes a park successful is community involvement and participation.” 

Bringing the playground up to ADA compliance means no more sand, so the plan calls for installing Fibar, a chemical- and carcinogen-free wood mulch designed for playgrounds. Improvements also call for a broader variety of equipment appropriate for ages 2 to 12 rather than the current 2- to 5-year range, and doubling the number of swings. 

GoPlayVero is accepting donations through the Indian River Community Foundation and also offers naming rights on brick pavers. Visit for details.