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Jacob Park Makes the Cut for New Playground

 Jacob Park has been selected to receive new playground equipment as part of the citywide Chicago Plays! program.
Jacob Park playground
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RAVENSWOOD MANOR — Tons of kids play at Jacob Park just not necessarily on the well-worn playground equipment.

That's about to change.

On Wednesday, Friends of Jacob Park received word that the playlot at 4674 N. Virginia Ave. was among those selected for an upgrade courtesy of the city's Chicago Plays! initiative, which aims to replace 50 playgrounds a year over the next five years.

"Good, it needs it," said Elliot Nathanson, who was playing a two-man game of Whiffle ball with his young son at the park when he heard the news.

"Those stairs on that bridge are deadly," he said, referring to the vertiginous drop on either end of the park's swinging span.

The bridge in question, along with a metal slide that's been patched with plywood and a pair of swing sets rumored to be chew toys for dogs — pretty much the only functional play equipment at the park — are about to be turned into scrap.

Also getting the heave ho: the remnants of a beloved pirate ship structure, the bulk of which was unceremoniously carted away with no warning.

"All of a sudden, it was gone, like a mini Meigs Field," Nathanson said, recounting neighborhood lore.

Groups seeking funding for a playground makeover need to collect petition signatures (a minimum of 50), a letter of support from their alderman and provide a conditions report and community impact statement.

Unlike typical playground renovations — in which the Chicago Park District foots a third of the bill, with the remainder split between the alderman's office and private interests such as park advisory councils — Chicago Plays! is picking up the entire tab, courtesy of the park district's capital budget.

Residents will select playground equipment and designs from one of two standard options for small, medium and large playlots. But the surface for the playgrounds will be uniformly Fibar, a soft, engineered product that resembles wood chips, said Maria Stone of Friends of the Parks, which partnered with the park district for Chicago Plays!.

A community meeting where residents can vote on the design plans will take place later this summer, a Friends of the Parks spokeswoman said.