Dad In Hot Water for Building Cool Fort for Kids


A father in Utah who expressed his playful side by building a massive cardboard-box fort in the yard for his kids last week has since been dealing with a serious killjoy: his city of Ogden, which has warned him to disassemble the fort by April 13 or face fines for the structure being in violation of building codes.

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“The whole thing is just ridiculous,” Jeremy Trentelman, a professional floral designer and father of two, tells Yahoo Parenting. “I thought I was just building a fort out of cardboard, tape and a little love, but apparently it’s making a statement.”

Trentelman built the fort for his kids, Max 3 ½ and Story, 2, after collecting several five-foot-by-four-foot boxes, which had held botanical trees, from the home and garden center where he works. “I had warm, positive memories from my childhood about forts, and thought it was a great way to spark imagination, away from the TV,” he says.

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But shortly after finishing the construction, which features a centerpiece of a yellow plastic slide, the city of Ogden delivered a warning, signed by code enforcer Gordon Sant. Though not a citation, the official letter noted that Trentelman was in violation for having “waste materials or junk” in his yard. It gave him 14 days to remove the fort or pay a $125 fee; he also had the option of paying $25 to contest it. He considered that at first, but then had a change of heart.


Dad Jeremy Trentelman is a Utah floral designer. (Photo: Jeremy Trentelman)

“I thought I was going to send off this scathing email, I was so mad for about an hour,” he says. “But then I realized I would rather spend time putting positive energy into my kids than negative energy into this.”

Sant’s office did not return a call for comment from Yahoo Parenting.

But apparently, Trentelman notes, “This has taken on a life of its own.” After he posted the violation letter to his Facebook page, noting, “ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDIN ME!!!?! ‘Waste materials or junk’ it says… what about totally awesome fun zone…,” the story was picked up by BuzzFeed. Then a supporter organized an event through Facebook, asking fellow citizens to support Trentelman’s efforts by building their own cardboard forts in their own yard. While he’s not certain if that’s taken off, he says he has caught wind of similar structures being built in his honor in places as far away as Mississippi and Canada. And folks from around the country — including Nevada, California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana — have posted spirited messages of support and praise for “awesome parenting” on the event page.


The fort has been a big hit in the neighborhood.

“The kicker is, we probably would’ve taken it down today because it takes up the majority of our front yard,” he says on Monday, noting that Easter Sunday “was a fantastic day,” as they had kids over and enjoying the structure “from sun up to sun down.” Now the family will definitely keep the fort alive until their approaching Monday deadline — provided it doesn’t disintegrate in coming rains, although it’s already survived a windstorm and light snow showers.

Still, while the whole situation with the city is “unfortunate,” Trentelman says, his kids have been having a ball. “They think it’s awesome,” he says. “They think it’s just amazing.”

(Top photo: Jeremy Trentelman)

Yahoo Parenting has chosen this story, originally published on April 6, as an example of one of our best of 2015.

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