By Amanda Eggert EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – Ophir School students returned from their winter break with a welcome addition to the school grounds: a new playground made possible by an $87,000 donation from the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation.

The donation was a donor-directed gift made by a member of the SPCF, which has been supporting local causes since 2011, when Spanish Peaks filed for bankruptcy.

After the bankruptcy, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club members rallied to raise $110,000 and donated about $75,000 to Spanish Peaks employees who lost their jobs virtually overnight in the bankruptcy. The remaining money was used to start the foundation, which has been a 501(c)(3) nonprofit since 2013.

Playground construction started in late September 2015 and ended mid-January of this year. It includes tetherball poles, a jungle gym, a swing set and a multi-level structure with two slides.

Before the playground was completed, Ophir’s 153 k-4 students walked to the old playground near Lone Peak High School. “When the snow came, well, you couldn’t get over there,” said Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman. “[The playground] was badly needed … It’s a lot of physical development for the kids, too – it’s climbing, it’s running.”

“I really like the new playground,” said fourth-grader Henry Flach. “It can hold more kids than the other one. Not everybody’s fighting for the slides.”

Chairman of the SPCF board John Haas said about 25 percent of the Spanish Peaks’ 231 members donate to the foundation.