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The Play Task Force is excited to announce that $85,000 has been donated toward replacing the equipment at Freedom Park along with a relocation. The project received an offer from an anonymous donor of $40,000 which was then generously matched by the Goppert Foundation. Another match of $5,000 from the Winter Foundation has completed the cash contributions. In addition, Ottawa was named as a Kanas Recreation & Parks Association State Initiative PlayOn! National Demonstration Site. This grant in partnership with Gametime (Play equipment provider) resulted in a 50% reduction in the playground expense. These efforts together have enabled the project to afford rubberized playground surfacing.

This has been a welcome surprise in a year that the Play Task Force and staff have been studying the projects and had determined a large fundraising effort wouldn’t be in the cards. “I was thrilled to be able to approach the Goppert Foundation as a match donor to the anonymous gift leader. Improving the playground at Freedom and also the half-court basketball court installation at Walton Park were both worthy projects,” said Mike Skidmore, GSSB vice-president.

The equipment has been ordered and should arrive in December indicated Public Works Director Mike Haeffele. “We hope to begin the work of installation over the winter, but it is of course totally weather dependent,” he offered. Tentatively the group has estimated an early spring completion date. City staff from the Parks Department will largely be tasked with installation of the equipment.

Freedom Park is currently in a low area in the flooding area of Skunk Run, north and west of the Don Woodward Center. The new installation will relocate the playground to east of Don Woodward, just north of the parking lot, with the goal of reducing the flooding of the playground.

The grant funds were directed to sites that could be developed to showcase best practice research in five areas: inclusive play, playful pathways, nature-based play, outdoor fitness for adults, and physical activity for children. City staff worked with the equipment provider to develop a design that met the criteria, will participate in outcomes sharing when the project is complete and hope to create some positive attention to the program with the community members participating in data collection of their experiences.

The pictured equipment will be in the color scheme of Red, White and Blue.

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