Ask Alec Campbell, 8, what he envisions as the ultimate playground, and he chatters on about castles with passageways and treehouses with...

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Ask Alec Campbell, 8, what he envisions as the ultimate playground, and he chatters on about castles with passageways and treehouses with zigzag slides.

“I think it’d be cool to have an underground passageway with no dead-ends,” Alec said.

Yesterday, Alec and hundreds of other students from Mark Twain Elementary School in Kirkland were asked to help design the perfect playground — one that will be built less than a mile from their classrooms through a community-volunteer effort.

The children lent their ideas to John Dean, an architect with Leathers and Associates, a firm based in Ithaca, N.Y., that helped design a similar project for St. Edward State Park in Kenmore. Dean plans to use the children’s creative ponderings to design a new playground at Kirkland’s Woodlands Park.

“This won’t be something out of a catalog,” Dean said. “This will be something that is custom-built, with kids’ ideas and kids’ energy heavily used. They want a slide out the window of a castle, we’ll do it — but within safety standards.”

The children’s ideas and a tentative sketch of the playground were presented to students and parents during an ice-cream social at the school last night.

The new playground will be between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet and could include a castle with an obstacle course, a tree house, rocket-shaped climbing equipment, a walk-on chess board, tunnels, twisty slides, and an area for tots with a train and a playhouse.

Woodlands Park Playground

More information about donating or volunteering to help build a new playground at Kirkland’s Woodlands Park can be found at online.

Donations may be made to: Northwest Parks Foundation, indicating the funds are intended for Friends of Woodlands.  12234 NE 97th St, Kirkland, WA 98033.

The community is kicking off an effort to raise $60,000 to $80,000 to turn the children’s ideas into reality. The group will need 500 to 1,000 volunteers to build the playground over a five-day period next spring, said Kevin Miller, a member of Friends of Woodlands Park, the community group coordinating the project.

The city’s Park Board and City Council have given approval for the project, to be built on city-owned land, said Bob Sternoff, a Park Board member. The community group will be responsible for paying for maintenance on the equipment, he said.

“We think it’s great there’s a neighborhood that wants to take on something like this,” Sternoff said.

The playground project was started as a way to bring the North Rose Hill neighborhood together, Miller said.

“The whole focal point of this is to get the whole community to work together on something,” Miller said. “We want to create a community gathering place, where parents and children can get outdoors, turn off the computer, get away from the TV, and come together.”

While children will play a major role in helping to design the park, some of their ideas — such as roller coasters, snake pits and water slides — had to be left by the wayside.

Dean also nixed familiar playground equipment such as seesaws, which can be dangerous to younger kids, he said.

Ebony Harris, 8, said it makes sense to have children help design the playground.

“We’re the ones who are going to play in it, not the adults,” she said. “They may not know what we want. … I want a rope swing.”

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or