Students exchanged their books for shovels and wheelbarrows Wednesday as part of a service day aimed at reopening a playground in Black Forest.
The playground in Black Forest Regional Park survived the fire, but it didn't make it through the flood. Mud and debris coated the ground around the playground. It mixed with fibar -- an engineered mulch designed to absorb the impact when children fall on a playground -- making the ground too hard for children to play on safely.
"Ever since about a month after the fire we have had this playground shut down," said Jeremy Symes. He is a maintenance supervisor for El Paso County's north district.
Symes was overseeing the playground project underway Wednesday morning. The 150 seniors from Pine Creek High School spent the morning removing the contaminated fibar.
The playground would stay closed a lot long without the help of the volunteers.
"With the staff and the resources we have at county parks, there is no way we could have tackled a project like this," said Symes.
Miranda Martinez and her friends enjoyed the work, despite the cold.
"It's not healthy for kids to be playing out in ash so we just want to help them," said Martinez.
For Nolan Schultz, the project hit close to home. His family lost their home in the Black Forest Fire. The fire destroyed almost every home on his street. Schultz has spent his senior year in a rental home while their home is rebuilt.
"It's just devastating. All the stuff that you think you didn't need and that it comes back to it and then it's just all gone. It's just hard," said Schultz.
Schultz has visited the park for years. He doesn't want to see fires or floods keep people away any longer.
"We lost all of our material things, we didn't lose the memories that we had and this way since we are helping fixing this park, we can help make those memories still happen," said Schultz.
Pikes Peak Community Foundation donated $10,000 to the playground's restoration project. The money will be used to purchase new fibar. Symes says the county will address drainage issues in the playground and then lay down the new fibar. After that, the park will be reopened to the public.