BINGHAMTON, NY – A large portion of the OurSpace playground in Binghamton’s Recreation Park was burned to twisted wreckage overnight.
The fire call came in at 12:43 Monday morning.
Binghamton firefighters found the structure fully engulfed with flames shooting as high as the towering trees above it.
By the time fire crews cleared the scene at 3 AM, much of the playground, designed to be fully accessible to children of all abilities, was destroyed.
The playground opened in June 2016 following a long period of planning.
The concept for OurSpace came from Jen O’Brien, founder of the Magic Paintbrush Project, in conjunction with the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Scholars at Binghamton University.
The 4 acre project inside Rec Park included an all-access playground, tree deck, garden and other gathering spaces for young and old.
The tree deck and Liberty wheelchair swing appear to have been spared.
Construction began in March, 2016 and was completed by Parks and Rec employees and over 900 volunteers who logged 5,200 hours of work.
The state provided half a million dollars in funding through the regional economic development council and an additional $140,000 was raised from local foundations, businesses and individuals.
Add in the volunteers and in-kind support from local contractors and Mayor Rich David said at the time that the city had received a 1 million dollar project, with no additional cost to taxpayers.
Fire investigators are on the scene.
Fire Marshal Alan Gardiner tells NewsChannel 34 that it is too soon to rule on a cause but that it is suspicious.
Gardiner says an arson dog is being brought in to try to determine where the fire began and whether accelerants were used to set the structure ablaze.
Fundraising efforts have been put in place by the community.
O’Brien posted the following message to her Facebook account Monday morning:
“To those who made the choice to light their matches, I’m so very sorry that you are hurting, and this was your way of sharing that. OurSpace was a playground for all children, all people to come and be together. It was three years in the dreaming, thousands of hours of volunteering the planning and building. It was a labor of love for our community. It was Our Space. Not yours, not mine, but ours together, equally, openly, accepting, encouraging and fully accessible to all.
To the firefighters and police who responded, thank you for keeping the surrounding homes and trees safe.
To every volunteer who carried a hammer to build a dream, I know you are hurting too. There will come a day when the dream will join with new ideas and people. You are not alone. To the Binghamton Parks & Rec Crew… my heart aches most for the heart you gave to make sure your City had the very best. You are so appreciated.
Like anything, it will rise from It’s ashes. Imagine how many people will want to help us rebuild it someday. There’s hope in that, there’s joy to be found in memories and potential. Hold onto that, and not the anger. Hope wins tonight. God bless and keep you all. Thank you for your overwhelming kindness and thoughts.”
O’Brien requests that anyone who would like to assist in fundraising to rebuild the playground do so only through the authorized link established by the Community Foundation of South Central New York. Donate here.
Gallery: The Morning After