Playground projects in motion

Playground projects in motion

Chronicle-Tribune  |
Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013 4:00 am
By Karla Bowsher  |

Dawn speaks with Kelly Levensky at a Give me Five Celebration where Swing of Faith received a $10,000 grant.

Dawn speaks with Kelly Levensky at a Give me Five Celebration where Swing of Faith received a $10,000 grant.

Handicapped-accessible swings could soon sway at several parks and schools across Grant County.

An informal grassroots organization called Swing of Faith, led in part by local nurse Bob Michael, put the plan in motion earlier this summer. With the swings now set up in Gas City’s Eugene “Beaner” Linn Memorial Park, Upland is next in line to install a set and schools may not be far behind.

Michael, who used to work with handicapped children at Vernon Manor Children’s Home in Wabash, said conversations with friends about his pet peeve over a lack of local handicapped-accessible playground equipment led him to research the equipment.

Assuming cost was the reason most playgrounds lacked wheelchair-friendly options, Michael said he was shocked to learn that less than $5,000 could purchase a five-swing set that included three different types of handicapped-accessible swings and two regular swings. He then started fundraising on a whim.

In August, the nonprofit Community Foundation of Grant County gave Swing of Faith a $10,000 grant as part of its quarterly grant program for equipment in Gas City and Upland. Ashley McKnight, a program manager for the Community Foundation, said the organization liked that the project will help multiple towns.

“We’re always looking to make sure that we’re expanding in Grant County, not just Marion,” Knight said, “and this was a great quality-of-life opportunity.”

Upland Town Council member Warren Ross, who serves as the liaison to the town’s Park Board, said Bob Michael approached the council about the project at an August meeting.

“The council thought it was great,” Ross said.

The equipment will be installed in the Upland Softball and Baseball Complex, locally known as Upland Park. Concrete was poured for the base later in August in conjunction with concrete poured for the Upland Pupland dog park, which is also located in Upland Park.

Last month, the swings were ordered. In preparation for the addition, volunteers cleaned, repaired and repainted existing playground equipment during a park clean-up day. The equipment is expected to be up and swinging this month.

Michael said he hopes upcoming swing set recipients will include Jonesboro’s Westview Elementary School, Gas City’s Northview Elementary School, Marion’s Francis Slocum Elementary School as well as Hartford City.

Marion Parks Department Director Belinda Hussong said the Friendship Corner handicapped-accessible playground added to Matter Park in 2007 is used not only by Marion residents but visitors from across Grant County and surrounding counties. The playground was intentionally designed with a mix of handicapped-accessible equipment and standard equipment.

“Now we have this huge area,” she said, “where the children can come all play together.”

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