Nearly 200 students shoveled, raked and hauled away tons of ash-laden mulch from the playground at Black Forest Regional Park on Wednesday morning.
The small army of Pine Creek High School seniors did the work as part of the school's annual Senior Service Day. The playground, less than three miles from the school near Milam and Shoup roads, was closed in mid-July after flash floods poured out of the Black Forest fire burn area.
"Many people from our school were affected by the fire," said senior class president Joey Vijayam. "It just made sense for us to come here."
The project at the Black Forest park not only gave the students something close to their hearts to do, but El Paso County parks maintenance supervisor Jeremy Symes said the work was crucial.
"With the staff and resources we have, it's not possible to tackle something of this scale," Symes said, noting that his staff is already tied up with "day-to-day" park maintenance.
Symes couldn't say enough about the students' hard work as they continued to haul away the safety surface material known as Fibar. The mulch-like substance became infiltrated with ash, mud and debris after rain spilled over ash-laden hills a few hundred yards to the north.
The students arrived at the playground shortly after 7:30 a.m. and planned to move garbage cans and wheelbarrows full of the damaged material until about noon. They carted the Fibar into the woods to the south where it would be spread as ground cover.
Symes paused for a second and pointed to a pair of students before continuing his explanation of the job.
"Those two girls have hauled can after can for the last two hours," he said.
After the playground is cleared, county workers will do drainage work in the area and bring in nearly three semi-truck loads of new Fibar. Money for the replacement material came from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which presented a check for $10,000 to the county on Oct. 2.
The playground maintenance was only part of the Pine Creek students' service day.
Another 100 students were spread throughout the Colorado Springs area helping out at Habitat for Humanity, Mountain View Elementary School and Springs Rescue Mission and playing music for residents at a local retirement home, Vijayam said.
"We contacted different organizations - anyone and everyone that wanted volunteers," Vijayam said.