Aug 05, 2020

Students volunteer to put the shine back into Rotary Playland

30 students volunteered with the Richter Center
as a part of Serve Fresno Day to clean up Rotary
Storyland & Playland.
Cameron Woolsey / The Collegian

For the first time since childhood, sophomore Becky Pings returned to Rotary Storyland & Playland not to simply enjoy the attractions, but to help put life back into them for future generations.

After more 55 years of entertaining children and families, the park has seen better days.

Many of its classic attractions have gotten a little rusty with age. The wooden pier for the Shipwreck Cove Boat Ride needs staining, and both the Big Rocko and Little Rocko rides require a fresh coat of paint.

Last week, around 30 Fresno State students answered the call as part of Serving Fresno Day, hosted by the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

Pings, 19, sees volunteering as an important part of being a community.

“I think it’s great for the community,” she said. “It shows a lot of pride in the area, and I think it teaches people to take more pride in what they have and kind of reevaluate everything and take a second look at it so they can appreciate things that are around them.”

With hands covered in paint and wood stain, the volunteer students worked hard getting one of Fresno’s original attractions back up and running. According to Danny Cobb, director of operations for the park, the goal was to get the park looking brand new and ready to re-open early next year.

With only a limited staff available, Cobb counts on the help of the university for this difficult yet necessary project.

“Having students or any volunteers come out to help us beautify and keep the parks looking fresh and new certainly helps us,” he said. “A lot of the times, due to expenses and other costs or whatnot, we can’t afford to do some of these projects.”

Built on May 30, 1955, two months before Disneyland opened, Fresno residents could spend their quality time at Playland, nestled in Roeding Park.

In 1962, when Storyland was built, the park’s official name became Rotary Storyland & Playland. For decades, the parks have entertained numerous families and exist as an important part of Fresno.

“It’s an incredible part of Fresno’s history and it’s really cool to be able to help on something like this,” team leader Daini Park said.

Park, 21, is part of the Reflection Facilitator program with the Richter Center. Its goal, she said, is to teach students about the higher qualities of community service.

She said students are challenged to learn about what it means to make an impact on their community—something that she takes to heart.

“When I first came to Fresno State, I needed to immerse myself in something because I was new,” she said.

Freshman Kayleigh Bader was at the park walking around with paint-stained hands. She said she was given the task of painting and staining some of the rides.

“Hopefully it stays,” she joked about her paint job. “Hopefully all of our paintwork will stay for a long time so people can enjoy the park looking nice.”

This wasn’t the first time Rotary Storyland & Playland has had volunteer help from Fresno State. Though she wasn’t able to go last year, Bader, 18, didn’t want to miss out again.

“There are not a lot of people who are willing to do it, so the people who are willing to put in the effort for these non-profit organizations, it’s really helpful to them, I know,” she said. “They just need volunteers to help when they can.”

Bader said that she would gladly come back to the park as long as volunteers are needed to help maintain the aging facility.

“As long as they need help, I’ll help,” she said.

Sophomore Lawton Nichols is another first-time volunteer, and had faced several challenges in the early parts of the day such as washing stuck-on dirt and grime off the docks and painting Big Rocko, a ride that shares similarities to a Ferris wheel.

“That has been some of the challenges but it looks a lot better than it was when we first got here,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Nichols stayed strong thanks to the morning pep talk the students got from Cobb, who said Fresno residents that visit the park “can’t go to places like Disneyland or Six Flags, so they need a little place so they can come get away with their children. So that’s why it’s really important to keep this place nice and looking good so they can keep coming back.”

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