‘This is what community is all about’: Inclusive playground committee hosts groundbreaking ceremony

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

A happy crowd on Wednesday morning gathered in the Edgewater Bay Pavilion for a ceremony celebrating the groundbreaking of the city’s new inclusive playground. This was originally planned as an outdoor event but needed to be moved inside due to rain.

The ceremony was a big moment for everyone involved, especially the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground Committee, who spent countless hours fundraising the project over the past two and a half years.

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The ceremony began with a few words from committee co-chair Kara Paulson.

“We saw a need for a park where families of multiple ages,… parents of children with disabilities could meet and form relationships and support each other on their journeys,” Paulson said. She explained the committee worked closely with Albert Lea Parks and Recreation and the city of Albert Lea to find an appropriate location for the playground.

The playground itself was designed by the  All Together Inclusive Playground Committee in partnership with Flagship Recreation.

Paulson thanked donors and other various supporters of the project including Larson Contracting, who provided in-kind donations, and solicited other contractors to work on the playground during the construction phase.

Following Paulson, Albert Lea Mayor Rich Murray gave a short speech about what the new inclusive playground will mean for the city of Albert Lea.

“I can’t say enough about everybody’s help in this,” Murray said. “This is what community is all about. Our community coming together to build something that is inclusive but also build something that many other communities don’t have.”

He congratulated the committee for their feat of raising a million dollars for the project throughout the 2 1/2 years.

“Other people from other communities can come to this inclusive park,” he said. “There may be people from other communities who want to move here because of this, and because of other things that this community is doing. We’ve come together as a community over the past several years. This is one project we’ll be working on many more. These are the things that improve the quality of life for our community.”

Murray closed his speech by reminding those present about the upcoming fundraiser, Let Inclusion Fly Kite Festival Aug. 24. The event was held last year as one of the most major fundraisers of the playground and achieved success, prompting the All Together Inclusive Playground Committee to host this year as well.

Shari Sprague, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, presented a check from the Albert Lea Chamber Foundation, for $5,000 to the committee.

“We are beyond thrilled to give this $5,000 today,” Sprague said, speaking on behalf of the Chamber Foundation, which has served as the fiscal host for the project.

“We are so excited to break ground so people can actually see what this park is going to be about,” Paulson said following the ceremony.  “I think that’s really going to help get the community even more excited when they actually see it coming together… I didn’t know how much work that it entailed. But once we got started on it and we were so excited about it, we knew we were never going to give up until we got it done.”

Donations for the All Together Inclusive Playground and Miracle Field can be made by contacting one of the playground’s committee members or by contacting committee member Sarah Stultz at the Albert Lea Tribune. Funds are tax-deductible.

The committee is still $45,000 short of the funds needed for the playground but hopes to reach that goal by the end of the summer.