By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
A group of about 30 people, including many children, gathered to break ground for the “Taylor Chebet Playground” in Little Falls.
The playground is part of phase I of a project which will include development of 22 acres of land donated to the city of Little Falls by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The land, valued at about $100,000, is located north of the city, near Edmund Street.
The next part of phase I will include a splash pad and all-wheels skate park. Someday, the goal of the Little Falls Area Recreation Task Force is that the area will include baseball diamonds, a community center, disc golf and more.
The playground took top spot in the phase I when earlier this year, Paul and Emily Twitchell donated $100,000 to be used to purchase playground equipment for a playground on the donated land. They asked that the playground be named after their infant daughter, who passed away at birth.
Paul Twitchell lived for a while in Little Falls during his high school years. He was in the area to go deer hunting and was on hand for the groundbreaking. He said he and his wife tried to make most of their donations to benefit children.
Twitchell said, in looking at the prison system, he felt that if society didn’t invest in people as children, it would invest in them as adults.
Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said the playground is the beginning of “some really great plans and dreams that we can accomplish for the community and our families.”
She said, “My biggest dream in Little Falls is that we invest in our children, so that eventually someday when they go out and develop a skill through further education, that they then bring that back to the community.”
She said that while Paul may not have moved to Little Falls, he had the community in his heart. “Because the community is in his heart, he has made this investment in the community,” she said.
A preliminary design for the playground was shared by Pat Faust and Amber Aspengren of Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI) out of Delano. Faust is a Little Falls native and graduated from Little Falls Community High School in 1977.
Adam Fjeld and his wife, Kris, their two children and Paul’s mother, Mary, made the trip to Delano to look at plans for playground equipment.
Adam Fjeld is a member of the Little Falls Area Recreation Task Force. He said his family went online to LSI’s website (playlsi.com) to look at equipment available before the trip.
“We went through every single video, which showed every component and how it works,” he said. The family picked out some they liked. “We saw some that were cool, but wanted to choose something kids would come back to.”
Fjeld does his own research while doing playground duty at his kids’ school. “I watch what kids use and what’s challenging. We handpicked each component in the design.”
Fjeld said the plan contains equipment that is considered “continuous play.”
“When kids are playing, they want a nice circuit that they can continue and never have to get down off equipment,” he said. “We have to have that in there; kids like to play things like the ground is lava (and they have to stay off of it).”
The Little Falls City Council will see the playground equipment designs Monday evening, when it meets.
Preliminary designs courtesy of Landscape Structures are below: