YMCA of Montclair officials and major project donors helped during a Sept. 14 ribbon cutting for the YMCA’s new inclusive playground. From left are YMCA chief volunteer officer Izumi Hara, executive vice President of Rao’s Homemade Risa Cretella, donors Bridget and David Placek and YMCA CEO and President Buddy Evans.

The YMCA of Montclair’s inclusive playground will open in October, after the arrival of turf flooring.

The playground, intended to break ground in the summer of 2020, was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Due to supply chain issues in procuring turf floor, the playground remains closed until October, a YMCA press release said. 

A ribbon-cutting event and reception at the playground took place Sept. 14. Councilwoman Lori Price Abrams presented a Township of Montclair proclamation during the event, extending congratulations on the completion of the playground and its benefit to the community, according to the press release.

Young music students from Montclair Early Music performed at the Sept. 14 ribbon cutting for the YMCA of Montclair’s inclusive playground. Students were led by Montclair Early Music’s president and founder Julienne Pape. (COURTESY YMCA OF MONTCLAIR)

“We are pleased to complete this long-awaited playground at the Geyer Family Y,” President and CEO of the YMCA of Montclair Buddy Evans said in the release. “The pandemic underscored for us the importance of having ample space for children to play and learn in the fresh air.  I’m so glad to have this playground ready for the start of the school year.” 

The playground design emerged from a collaboration between the YMCA, Gary Fredriksen, professor of art and design at Montclair State University, and six MSU students. The student interns created virtual and physical models for the playground’s elements, pulling inspiration from nature and playground equipment companies.

Attendees at the Sept. 14 ribbon cutting for the YMCA’s inclusive playground peeked over the playground’s fence. (COURTESY YMCA OF MONTCLAIR)
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The space is wheelchair-accessible, with a staircase in compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines, according to the YMCA. Aimed to engage children of all ages, the playground features a variety of activity-based spaces including an interactive garden for hands-on planting, a “creation station” where kids can play with materials like clay and sand, and climbing stations. 

A bench in the playground is dedicated to the staff for their efforts during the pandemic.  

Montclair residents David and Bridget Placek donated $25,000 to the playground and food company Sovos Brands/Rao’s Homemade, based in the township, donated $20,000. The Placek family and Rao’s also participated in a challenge grant, matching community donations of $15,000. 

The Placek family, seen here, was one of major donors responsible for funding the YMCA’s new inclusive playground. (COURTESY YMCA OF MONTCLAIR)

“Our family is very excited about the opening of the playground at the Geyer Family Y,” David and Bridget Placek said in the YMCA release. “We know that so many families in the community will benefit from having this colorful new playground in their backyards, and look forward to seeing it be used for many years to come.”  

Risa Cretella, executive vice president of Rao’s, said the company is committed to supporting initiatives to better Montclair. 

“Rao’s is delighted to have helped bring to life the YMCA of Montclair’s vision for this community playground,” Cretella said in the release.

According to the release, other lead supporters include the Geyer Family, Izumi Hara and David Koschik, Rose Cali, Susann and Jim Connors, Investors Foundation and The Provident Bank Foundation. 

— Information submitted by the YMCA of Montclair