Sunset Beach Playground Opens for Business

In just four days, a semi-load of playground parts and pieces was assembled into a destination playground at Sunset Beach. The equipment was delivered July 8, installation began July 11 and the playground opened for business July 14.

Donations totaling $80,000 given to the Friends of Lake Panorama nonprofit charity made up the base support for this new playground. The Lake Panorama Association provided an additional $50,000. The LPA also provided technical and construction assistance.

The playground is designed to accommodate up to 165 children at a time. The main play structure includes multiple slides, bridges and places to climb. Several smaller play structures surround the main area, including a modern take on old-fashioned merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters.

The playground colors are blue, green and tan. The Friends board of directors chose these colors to represent the blue water and sky, green grass and trees, and tan sand found at Sunset Beach and throughout the Lake Panorama community.

Those three colors led St. Thomas More counselors to develop a twist on the musical chairs game, which campers can play during daily visits to Sunset Beach. As campers move throughout the playground structure, a counselor will call out a color. Players are eliminated based on the color they are standing on at the time.

The playground has proven popular not just with St. Thomas More campers, but also neighborhood children and visitors. Postings on social media have described adults enjoying the playground along with their children and grandchildren.

The $130,000 raised by Friends of Lake Panorama covered the cost of the playground equipment and installation, plus the play surface that is a base of pea gravel topped with wood fibers. Six rubber mats are buried in the wood fibers at the base of each slide to help protect these areas from heavy traffic.

Donations also covered the cost to refurbish a large wooden bench that was moved to make way for the playground. Kurt Johnson volunteered to replace the deteriorated wooden slats with new cedar, which he stained and sealed. He also repainted the metal braces, and installed the bench in a new location just north of the playground in the shade of two trees.

Remaining funds have been set aside to pay for a donor recognition sign, which will be installed next spring near the playground. Friends of Lake Panorama is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All contributions are tax deductible, and donors receive a letter of thanks as their receipt.

While donations of all sizes are welcome, only donors of $500 or more will be recognized on the sign, and the Friends website. Donations for the Sunset Beach playground will continue to be accepted through the end of 2016. Any additional funds designated for the playground during this time will be used for benches or other upgrades.

The Friends nonprofit is separate from the Lake Panorama Association, and has a goal of improving recreational amenities at Lake Panorama. The Friends board of directors will meet in September to discuss potential projects and fundraising efforts. Project suggestions or general questions can be emailed to