After more than five years of hope, planning and, yes, lots of fundraising, Winnebago’s West City Park playground has finally found its twin in East City Park.
The blue-headed structure now rises from a bed of mulch in its location next to Winnebago City Hall. It is complete with monkey bars, two towers and a slide.
A Winnebago Playground Improvement Project was first conceived by the Winnebago Kids Fund in 2016.
The group’s ambitious plans involved a complete overhaul of the playgrounds in West and East City Parks.
The west side park would get a freestanding slide, swing set and zipline, while the east side park would get a brand new playground.
When the project was first proposed at a September 2016 city council meeting, it was estimated to cost nearly $80,000 in total.
In its early days, the project was partially funded by a $10,000 donation from the city council through the city’s capital funds and community trust funds.
Later that year, $12,358 in donations were approved for construction of the playgrounds. The Kids Fund has also been approved for an outdoor recreation grant.
It was originally the Kids Fund’s intention to tackle the east side playground first. While West Side playground equipment was estimated at $40,000 in 2016, East Side equipment was expected to cost less, at $37,613.64.
The Winnebago Kids Fund set out to pursue the project with vigor and vigor.
Jessi Sturtz, who was city clerk at the time and a member of the Kids Fund, said: “I’m a big fan of the park.”
As of 2016, the Kids Fund hoped that the playground at East City Park would be completed in time for the 2017 Bago Fun Fest.
In January 2017, Sturtz announced to the city council that the playground equipment had been delivered and that students from South Central College in Mankato were to come to Winnebago to help assemble it.
At the time, the Kids Fund intended to apply for additional grants to cover the installation of an additional play area.
It appears that a decision was made to install the equipment in West City Park, instead of East City Park, as a few months later the city council ordered $6,850 worth of rubber mulch for the renovation of West City Park.
By 2020, the West City Park Playground was fully completed, fulfilling half of the Winnebago Kids Fund’s original dream.
However, East City Park faced a bumpier road.
In 2019, specific measures to renovate the park’s playground on the east side had not yet been taken.
At a city council meeting in June 2019, the parks and recreation committee questioned the safety of the park’s decaying equipment.
“City staff have replaced many boards and screws, but are concerned about future safety hazards that may arise with playground equipment,” detailed an article in the Faribault county register.
At the time, there was over $34,000 in the capital equipment budget, and the city expected an additional $18,595 in funding from a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, originally obtained for cover work done at West City Park.
As such, council passed a motion authorizing up to $25,000 to be spent on new playground equipment in the east side park.
Newly ordered equipment experienced even more delays.
A year later, in 2020, the newly arrived playground equipment had not yet been installed. When the delay was noted via public comments at a city council meeting, then-city administrator Jacob Skluzacek estimated that the project may not be completed until summer 2021.
Indeed, in 2021, plans to complete the long-awaited playground were finally moving forward. By August, the site was ready for concreting, although a few pieces of equipment had yet to be delivered.
The following summer – in 2022 – the final finishes, such as mulch and concrete curbs, were finally done.
The playground was completed, in fact, just in time for the 2022 Bago Fun Fest.
Thus, the Winnebago Kids Fund’s dream of new playground equipment finally came true, albeit in time for a Bago Fun Fest five years later than originally planned.
The long and frustrating hours spent by the Kids Fund researching, seeking funding and recruiting labor seem to have paid off for the Winnebago community.
At this summer’s Bago Fun Fest, the youngsters had fun on the new equipment under the hot June sun. They were smiling as they slid down the slide and climbed the climbing bars.
Parents watched their children play on the new elastic mulch. They didn’t have to worry about a stray, rotting board disrupting their child’s joy on a sunny summer day.