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VALLEY FOCUS | Granada Hills

Thanks to Actor, Kids Will Know the Ropes

September 03, 1998|EDWARD M. YOON

Actor Kirk Douglas dedicated a new rope course at Patrick Henry Middle School on Wednesday, but he politely declined to try out the new equipment which he and his wife had bought.

But merely cutting the ribbon was not enough for the 82-year-old screen legend's wife, Anne. In fact, Anne Douglas became the first nonstudent to slide along a 275-foot-long rope suspended between two 65-foot-tall telephone poles.

"I wasn't scared; this was nothing," she said. "I see these kids doing it, and one of the [Patrick Henry physical education] teachers told me that her 4-year-old son did it."

That "zip line" was one of 20 elements in the new Anne and Kirk Douglas Adventure Learning Course at the Granada Hills school. The course also includes a cargo net climb, a tandem trapeze leap and a balance beam.

Patrick Henry is one of 31 Los Angeles schools to receive grants from a $1-million fund, contributed by the Douglases, that pays for landscaping and equipment in Los Angeles schools.

"When my wife came up with this idea of doing something for children, I said 'What can I do to help?' " Kirk Douglas said. "She said, 'Make another picture and make some money,' so I'm going to make another picture in October."

The new rope course cost $25,000, said Linda Lane, principal at Patrick Henry. She credited Chad Fenwick, chairman of the physical education department, with writing the grant proposal for the course.

Nine telephone polls, from 10 to 65 feet in height, were used to create the course. It was designed by Alan Wright, assistant professor of Leisure Studies and Recreation at Cal State Northridge, who builds similar courses throughout the country, Lane added.

"It's a true community effort," Lane said. "I'd like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, Mr. Fenwick with his very precocious vision and the efforts of the whole community to put this together."

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