CONCORDIA COMMUNITY PARK PROJECT LANDS ITS BIGGEST DONATION YET

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Local groups are starting to put money behind the grassroots effort to create a destination playground at City Park.
The Women's Division of the Concordia Area Chamber of Commerce kicked in $10,000 Tuesday, marking the project's biggest donation yet. The group raises money to give to projects that improve the community and enhance life in Concordia, president Susan Cantine-Maxson said.
"This project was one that spoke to our hearts," Cantine-Maxson said. "What better way to pay it forward than to kickstart a park playground project?"
Combined with $5,000 from Central National Bank, the Concordia Community Park Project's fundraising total is $15,000, just weeks after the concept came to life at a Rotary Club meeting. The group aims to raise $150,000 by build week next April, said Janet Lowell, a Rotary Club member and a leader on the project.
Broad community support is essential, Lowell said, and not just in the financial sense. To hire out a playground of the scale that project leaders intend could cost close to $1 million. With the Community Park Project's relatively small budget, volunteers will provide the steam to complete it. The project will rely on local citizens to build the structure over five days, donate materials, lend tools, and even care for other volunteers' children.
The project takes inspiration from area towns that have completed destination parks. Miltonvale's Tootleville Park, built in 2002, has sprawling climbing structures that feature a kid-concepted design hodgepodge, including a castle, pirate ship, tractor, and fire engine. That park cost $84,000 and took five days to build, with 80 volunteers reporting per day, according to those who were involved.
Clay Center's Dexter Park has a similar story. In 2011, 800 volunteers built a custom playground that includes original art by Clay Center citizens. The community responded so enthusiastically to plans for the Safari Run Playground that the project raised $245,000, surpassing the original budget of $175,000 by so much that leftover money was used to redo the shelter house and beyond, said David Coffman, a general coordinator for the Safari Run build. The Complex has dozens of components, including a tree house, airplane, pirate ship and mirror maze.
"It brought everybody together," Coffman said, "and the park is being used more."
Concordia leaders are backing the local effort. After hearing that the Community Park Project had chosen a designer-Play By Design, of Ithaca, N.Y.-the Concordia City Commission last week gave an official "vote of confidence" to proceed. USD 333 Superintendent Bev Mortimer is also on board and has offered to lend space for storing materials before the build in the high school's shop areas, which are close to the park.
Citizens appear to be interested in park improvements. The Concordia Community Park Project's Facebook page launched Monday, with more than 180 likes by the end of the first day.
But why infuse so much money into Concordia's main playground, when the existing equipment is in decent shape?
A showcase playground is a great place for children to romp, but it's also a boon for luring new families and tourists, said Ashley McMillan, CloudCorp executive director and a project coordinator. And with the Middle School's impending move to the Concordia Junior-Senior High School next fall, school administrators are looking for places to have recess.
"Prospective businesses are not only looking for the right economic fit, but also the right fit for their employees and families," McMillan said. "A community-built playground really showcases Concordia's community attitude."
The project's steering committee expects that City Park's existing playground equipment can be moved to another Concordia park to be determined by the city, McMillan said.
The Community Park Project's first opportunity for large-scale community involvement happens next month on Design Day, when a designer will tap into the imagination of Concordia's children and transform their ideas into a plan for the final product.
Play By Design representatives will be in town June 20 to interview dozens of children in small focus groups, effectively polling the park's target audience about what they would like in their dream playground. A preliminary schematic based on the children's feedback will be unveiled in a community celebration the same night, according to Play By Design. Design Day focus groups will take place during Summer Playground, but all area children, including those who will not attend Summer Playground, are encouraged to attend.


CONCORDIA COMMUNITY PARK PROJECT
This grassroots group will assemble several hundred volunteers to build a $150,000 destination playground at City Park next spring. Stay informed about the project by following Facebook.com/ConcordiaCommunityParkProject.

VOLUNTEER
The following volunteer committees are beginning to assemble. Those interested can fill out a sign-up sheet at the CloudCorp office, 606 Washington St., or Central National Bank, 130 E. 7th St. You can also email ashley.mcmillan@cloudcorp.net with your name, the committee you're interested in and your phone number. Please indicate whether your phone is equipped for text messages.

1. Fundraising: Developing and executing a plan to raise $150,000.
2. Public relations: Getting the word out through traditional and social media.
3. Volunteer: Finding and organizing 80 volunteers per day for five build days.
4. Tools: Locating tools and keeping inventory during the build days.
5. Purchased materials: Buying materials for the structure and keeping inventory.
6. Donated materials: Working with local businesses to secure donated building materials.
7. Food: Securing donations for and organizing two meals a day for each of the five build days.
8. Youth: Coordinating youth involvement, from pre-K through Cloud County Community College.
9. Child care: Organizing care for children during build days so parents can participate.
10. Special needs coordinator: Working with the designer to ensure accessibility for children and adults.
11. Construction crew supervisors: Organizing and overseeing experienced building crews.
12. Art: Developing aesthetics and special features.

DONATE
The Concordia Community Park Project will appeal to area businesses and individuals and seek grants for the majority of funds. To contribute, contact Janet Lowell at 785.243.8221 or janetl@centralnational.com.

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