Since the playground in Sylvan Park is aging, this new playground set is proposed to be installed before Buffalo Bill Days this year or, at least, before the first day of school in the fall.  BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Since the playground in Sylvan Park is aging, this new playground set is proposed to be installed before Buffalo Bill Days this year or, at least, before the first day of school in the fall. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
As the current playground in Sylvan Park has been showing its age, plans for erecting a new and more innovative playground have been in the works. Lanesboro's city administrator, David Todd, and Flagship Recreation's Charlie Colvin briefed the Lanesboro School Board on the new equipment and the reasoning for certain pieces during the board's regular meeting on Thursday, March 20.

Todd presented a short background of why the plans have been developed. "Sylvan Park is the heart of the city and we wanted to incorporate playground equipment that is new and unique to Lanesboro," he stated.

The board estimated the date of the erection of the current equipment as having taken place around 20 or more years ago. The slides and netting are in disrepair and are showing their age. According to Colvin, many cities now work with 15-year life cycles for their playgrounds.

Flagship Recreation developed the plans for the new playground. Because the company has recently completed transitioning to a 100 percent employee ownership, they are focused on the quality and value of the equipment to prospective buyers.

There are five categories of why the design resulted the way it did. The first is being a challenge and enhancing child development. "The skills children learn on the playground are often translated to everyday life in the future. They begin to take on challenges and achieve new levels, gaining more confidence," Colvin expressed.

Another category is innovation. Colvin described the experience on the new playground is not like what another playground would provide in relation to everyday life. One such example is the ZipKrooz. This is best described as a 50-foot zipline, but a person is able to go in two different directions on it.

There are several advantages with this ZipKrooz. First, the wheels are not exposed. Second, it is safe and gives the child the maximum time to use the energy acquired from sitting in the classroom. Third, there is an incline at both ends. One incline will give enough velocity to float to the other side and the second incline slows the child down. The incline also encourages child cooperation for helping one child riding to get up on the platform.

"The ride across does not make much noise and is as smooth as silk," Colvin described. "We also know it will carry at least 210 pounds since we did test runs on it."

A third category is durability. Underneath the coating there is a primer. If the steel is scratched, the primer will prevent any rusting and simply painting the scratch will make the area like new again. "If the equipment is damaged in any way, the parts are right here in Minnesota. The replacement parts would arrive within days of the order. The equipment itself is divided into several pieces. If one becomes obsolete according to regulations, there is no need to rip out the whole playground. You can simply get another piece and put it in," Colvin added.

A fourth category is capacity. The idea is to let as many kids as possible have fun playing together on the same playground. There are two levels signifying two different grades of challenge. The lower level allows the younger and slower children enough separation from the older and faster children to prevent accidents.

"Because the younger children enjoy playing with the older kids, we did not want to leave them completely separated. So there are many ways to transition gradually to a different level," Colvin said.

The final category is variety. There are challenging pieces to the playground. Things such as funnel ladders, climbing walls and blender spinner help children develop motor skills and innovation.

This playground is also designed to develop the children's social skills. Team cooperation is needed for the ZipKrooz and other areas promote being social.

Instead of a rubber pad, which would add around $25,000 to the total price of the playground, the plan is to use engineered wood mulch that is ground to certain specifications. The mulch would be placed on top of a layer of landscape fabric. Because it is wood, there will be good drainage on the ground, but the mulch would need to be replaced in three to five years. The whole area, including the fabric and mulch would need to be replaced in eight to 10 years.

While developing the plans, much thought and effort went into investigating exactly what Lanesboro wanted. Planners threw out dead spaces within the playground to ensure less maintenance. One of the playground panels will feature the Lanesboro Burro as well as a logo unique to Sylvan Park.

As the presentation wore on, questions arose about what to do with the old equipment. Some options were to scrap and salvage it or to work with Kids Around The World, which sends old equipment to another country where kids are without playgrounds. If the equipment does not meet the specifications, the organization may not use the old set or may choose to simply use parts of the old set.

In the event of natural disasters and certain levels of vandalism, the equipment will be covered under the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

Other questions arose on the financing of the project. The Park and Recreation Committee under the city has received numerous donations specifically for the equipment. To date, $75,000 has been collected for the project.

With this is the option of having Flagship Recreation install the equipment professionally or have the community assist with the installation to cut down on the cost. As yet, the cost for the community build has not been determined. However, if the cost is significantly lower, the city and school may choose this option. In this event, Flagship Recreation would send a nationally certified engineer to supervise the project. If the cost is relatively close to the professional cost, they will choose the professional installation.

Assuming a professional installation, the cost will be around $130,000. After the donations are applied to the bill, the remaining cost is $55,000.

Lanesboro School Board Secretary Steve Snyder inquired if the city would be supplying any of its own money to fund the project.

Todd explained the city will be providing the annual maintenance and possibly the preparation for the installation.

After much debate, the board voted to supply up to $45,000 of the remaining cost and leave the rest for the city, providing they go with the professional installation. If the decision is to take the community build approach, these numbers will change.

The hope is to have the installation complete either before Buffalo Bill Days, or before the first day of school next year.

The length of installation was quoted to be either one or two weeks depending on the choice the city and school makes, but will not take more than that providing there is no major weather change.

Other Business

The school board discussed next year's school calendar and how many days have been assigned to this year's calendar. Mention was made that even with all the snow days, the Lanesboro Public School still has 77 hours over the required hours Minnesota regulations require.

An early release of 11:30 a.m. on the last student day of school this year, Monday, June 2, has been approved.

The Scholarship Banquet is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 at Eagle Bluff, which is on the same date as the FFA convention. Unfortunately there is no way around this conflict as there are no other dates available for the facility.