WILLMAR—The Robbins Island Destination Playground in Willmar has more than lived up to the expectations of the committee that helped make it a reality. During the summer months it’s not uncommon to see the parking lot full of not only cars but buses, as families, daycares and summer programs all come to enjoy the nearly 20,000-square-foot, fully accessible playground.
“I am always looking to see how busy the park is,” said Dave Baker, state representative and member of the Willmar Playground Committee.
When the park opened in June 2017, the committee figured updates and repairs would be needed. They decided to see how the playground operated and how the community reacted to it before making any plans for changes.
“We took a lot of feedback from our users,” said Sara Carlson, executive director of the Willmar Area Community Foundation and member of the playground committee.
Issues raised multiple times by playground users included no shade, broken water misters and a lack of garbage cans. This spring the committee, along with the city of Willmar, will be addressing those, and other matters.
Using funds left from the build of the playground, four large shade structures, new signage, permanent trash receptacles and a water filtration system will be added to the playground. They are deemed practical upgrades the playground needs to make the site an even better place to play.
The shade structures, which will be 25-feet by 12-feet, will be installed on the south side of the playground. They will provide users with a place to escape the sun, while still being able to enjoy the playground. The plan is to have the fabric of the structures be a forest green color.
“They’ll make the park stick out even more as you drive by,” said Ken Warner, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce executive director and member of the playground committee.
The new trash cans will be installed permanently around the perimeter of the park. And they won’t be boring, black plastic containers.
“Main Street Willmar is going to help us design kid-friendly art wraps,” Carlson said. Think of the downtown Willmar trash cans with cute monster faces on them.
The update the kids might enjoy the most will be the water filtration system, because it will allow one of their favorite playground pieces to work.
For most of the season last year the water misters were inoperable. Willmar’s hard water was causing the misters to clog up, along with discoloring some of the playground surfaces. The filtered water should fix those issues.
“The misters will be back on in 2020,” Baker said.
Additional upgrades to the park will include new signage in multiple languages and descriptive pictures to better communicate the rules of the park; repainted art work that has faded in the sun; and an addition to one of the expression swings in the toddler area that will allow for the taking of selfies.
“It is a pretty substantial investment to change that out, but it will expand the horizon of the park,” said Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin.
All of the upgrades will cost around $90,000. The community foundation still has monies in the playground building fund which will be paid to the city for the upgrades.
“It will be a partnership between the foundation and the city, with the city in the lead role,” Carlson said.
Carlson said, thanks to many area businesses donating their time and materials during the community playground build in May 2017, money is available for these new projects.
“Since donors were so spectacular, we were able to come under budget for the actual build,” Carlson said.
The build fund will be pretty much drained after these upgrades are completed, but there is still a playground maintenance fund at the foundation, which helps pay for repairs. These upgrades will also reduce some of the maintenance the park has required, something very important to the committee.
“We wanted to make sure we gave the city this playground with low maintenance,” said Baker. “We are following through on our commitment.”
West Central Tribune by Shelby Lindrud