Community partners band together to repair Imagination Station

Jason Angus

April 11, 2014

City Park’s employees prepare to restore Imagination Station by taking an inventory of needed repairs. Due to vandalism, weather, and frequent use of equipment, some areas of the beloved playground have become defaced, deteriorated, and unsafe, and have caught the attention of those wanting to get the park back to its original condition.

A community partnership between the City of Altus, Wilmes Ford-Lincoln and Chevrolet, and over 30 Altus Air Force Base members, are set to bring Imagination Station back to life beginning Saturday, May 10 at 8 a.m. Additional volunteers and sponsors are welcome to join the on-going effort.

Foremost, the restoration will focus on “hot spots” concerning issues of safety and cosmetics. Some of the protective coverings on metals chains have eroded as well as platforms being disconnected from it’s base. Along the fence, pickets have been kicked out by vandals. Throughout the structure there are signs of graffiti and vandalism.

Since the playground was constructed over a decade ago the facility has required regular painting and upkeep since it is a wooden park, explained Craig Tockey, City Parks and Recreation Manager. “The elements take a big toll on these products,” Tockey said. “It takes the help of the City, local businesses, and the Air Force to keep it looking nice. It takes all of us.”

Tockey said that there have always been different organizations tending to the park’s needs. “We’ve had 4-H groups, church groups, and the Airman Leadership School (AAFB) volunteer several times. It’s a great thing.” Tockey added that the members of Air Force Base treat Altus as if it was their own home, like MSgt. Agustin Nalsen who contacted the City of Altus about making some small repairs.

MSgt. Nalsen has been to Imagination Station several times to play with his two daughters. “I was walking around and playing with them when I noticed that it was in a bit of disrepair,” Nalsen said in an interview. “I saw some screws and nails sticking out, some broken boards, and a few things I though were a little bit unsafe. I thought a lot of these things I could probably take care of myself.”

MSgt. Nalsen contacted the City of Altus and was told that there were already plans to make repairs. “They said basically that they had somebody donating some supplies and the tools but didn’t really have the man power,” said Nalsen. “I told them that is perfect, because I can bring the man power.”

After MSgt. Nalsen sent out a few emails to the 97th Training Squadron, the 58th Airlift Squadron, and 54th Air Refueling Squadron, over 30 volunteers responded eager to help.

“I like the idea of people pulling together and making stuff happen,” Nalsen said. “I don’t think it’s just us. I think it’s anybody who understands this is our City. Even though I’m not from here, I’m living here so we might as well pull together and do what needs doing.”

Kurt Wilmes of Wilmes Ford-Lincoln reported being at Imagination Station with his son when he decided to get involved in the effort to donate supplies and tools.

“It’s such an awesome facility it just needs a little TLC,” said Wilmes. “It’s just a shame to let it deteriorate any further just because of the age of it. And we’re more than happy to help out to see if we can keep it in good shape so everyone can enjoy it like they did from day one.”