By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
For more than two years, Royalton residents have been working to make a splash park in their community a reality. After all, a skate park became reality a few short years ago, with efforts from the community.
The idea sprang from participation in the Initiation Foundation’s Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP) program. From the community visioning session, a larger park with a splash pad was identified as a need within the community.
The Initiative Foundation awarded the city a $20,000 grant over a two-year period, to be used to build community support and develop fundraising activities
The Splash Park Committee meetings began in earnest in the fall of 2009. The plan is to build the park for not only Royalton, but for surrounding communities as well, including Rice, Pierz, Bowlus and Little Falls.
The nearest splash park to Royalton’s south is in Sauk Rapids, said committee member Brenda Weiss-Pesta. To the north, there are swimming parks in Brainerd. None exist within a comfortable driving distance to the east and west.
The committee garnered support from the city, which offered a matching grant of $25,000. A 1.4 acre parcel of land donated to the city by Roach Development as a part of its Plattewood Development agreement with the city, was designated as the site of the park — saving about $90,000 of the committee’s estimated $315,000 cost for the project.
Members of the Royalton Lions Club built a park shelter on the site, which can be rented for events at a minimal fee through City Hall, saving the Splash Park Committee yet more money.
Since the first fundraiser in 2010, the committee has raised nearly $60,000. To-date $26,000 has been raised through individual contributions and fundraising activities.
Another $27,000 has been contributed through grants and donations from organizations.
Another $35,000 is outstanding in grant applications submitted by the committee.
The committee is also raising funds through the “Green Sneaker” program. Sneakers are donated and collected by the committee. These tennis shoes will be made available to people in need around the world. The Green Sneaker program pays 50 cents for each pound of tennis shoes they pick up. A drop-off point for residents is located at the Royalton City Hall.
Ongoing fundraisers include meat raffles during the popular Friday night fish fries at the Royalton Legion which will continue through Lent. The fish fries draw hundreds of people each Friday night, and as Lent comes to an end, the number served can reach 1,000.
A spaghetti supper and silent auction fundraiser is planned for Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Royalton American Legion, from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Royalton City Hall or at Royalton Discount Center.
Purchasing the tickets early will help organizers plan for the amount of food necessary, but the tickets can also be purchased at the door, for a slightly higher cost.
Weiss-Pesta is excited about items already donated for the silent auction, which include a Kindle, hunting apparel, and a night’s stay and buffets at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.
She said the committee will continue to accept donations for the silent auction to provide a variety of items for all ages. To help support the event or to contribute toward the park, people may contact Weiss-Pesta at (320) 584-7410 or Jerry Goedderz at (320) 584-5834.
Other Splash Park Committee members include Bev Albright, Jennifer Bailey, Pam Cimenski, Russ Gerads, Curt Gregory, Dusty Haubner, Angie Sahr, Amy Schoenrock and Tanna Stucky.