by Dennis Dalman
A commitment of $340,000 from three local Lions clubs was announced at the Jan. 23 Sartell City Council meeting for the construction of an inclusive playground at regional community Lions Park, 1013 First St. N., Sartell.
Once it’s built, the inclusive playground will make possible access for all children, including those who may be physically challenged. It will be the only such playground in central Minnesota, accessible to all people from a wide area. There are relatively few inclusive playgrounds in Minnesota. The Sartell one will be able to be used by families throughout central Minnesota.
At the council meeting, Stu Giffin, president/secretary of the Sartell Lions, announced the news on behalf of three Lions clubs: Sartell, Stephen and LeSauk Township. The co-chairs of the playground project are Giffin and Jim Muellenbach, also a Sartell Lions club member.
As promised last year, about $240,000 of the amount was raised locally by those three clubs, and another $100,000 was granted by the International Lions organization.
In October 2022, the city council voted to support the inclusive-park project, which also has strong backing by the Sartell-St. Stephen school district and other regional groups and individuals. The City of Sartell will provide some funding for the playground, as well as its installation and maintenance by public-works employees.
The city council praised the fundraising success of the Lions clubs.
“You guys knocked it out of the park,” Mayor Ryan Fitzthum told Giffin. “It’s good for people all over this area. Thank you, thank you so much.”
The regional community Lions Park is located east of Pinecone Road right across from Sartell City Hall. The park was created in a woodland, with handicapped accessible trails, about 25 years ago by the Lions Club, spearheaded by long-time Lions member Mike DeLuca.
The new inclusive playground was designed for all children and adults to enjoy, including those who are physically challenged. Some parents of some of those children gave a lot of input during the playground’s planning/design sessions.
The new playground will feature a rubberized surface that will allow strollers, walkers, wheelchairs and mobility-challenged children to access the play equipment. On the playground there will be ramps, decks, interactive play panels, a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round and two zip lines. The 6,000 square-foot rubberized surface features colors, shapes, hop-scotch grids and balancing games. The new, safer rubberized playground surface will replace the existing surface of wood chips and sand.
Further fundraising efforts are still underway by the Lions clubs for potential restrooms at the playground site, for additional play equipment and for incidental expenses.
There are several ways to donate to the project:
On the Sartell Inclusive Playground’s GoFundMe site.
By sending or delivering a check to The Waters Church, 1227 Pinecone Road, Sartell, MN 56377. (Write “Inclusive Playground” on the memo line of the check.)
By dropping off a check made out to “Lions’ Inclusive Sartell Playground” to Liberty Bank at 198 Pinecone Road N. in Sartell.
By sending a check made out to “Lions’ Inclusive Sartell Playground” to Sartell Lions Club, P.O. Box 7, Sartell, MN 56377.
Lions Club members are encouraging others to join the Lions. Lions International is the world’s largest service organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of people by strengthening their communities and supporting those in need. For many decades and to this day, the organization is widely known for helping the visually impaired and those with other challenges.
For more information about the Lions and the playground project, visit online “Sartell Lions Club.”