Popular playset in Tapley Park dismantled, funds being raised to replace it – Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA — The wooden playground at Tapley Park looked like a fort and was loved by kids, some of whom were brought there by parents from out of town just to enjoy the unique play structure, which had wooden infrastructure and plastic tunnels, platforms and other parts.

It was largely built with local donations after the previous playset was ruined by the 2010 tornado, said Wadena Public Works Director Dan Kovar.

Before the tornado, there were two playgrounds in Tapley Park. “One was pretty old-style and wasn’t insured anymore (by the manufacturer),” Kovar said. “The newer one was replaced.”

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An artist’s rendition of the replacement playground equipment planned for Tapley Park if enough money could be raised.

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The wooden fort-like playground had a lot of ways kids could play — they could crawl through the tunnels or climb ladders to the top, run around, or fly down the slides.

But the wooden part of the playset did not hold up as well as hoped, Kovar said, and the past few years city staff and neighbors have replaced rotting wood and done whatever other repairs were needed to keep kids safe.

“Unfortunately, its life expectancy was not that good,” he said. “The wood was rotting and we were trying to keep up with replacing boards — they were getting broken from kids using it, and the hardware was getting broken from being exposed.”

By early last year, city staff knew the playground was running out of time.

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Wadena city workers dismantled the playground in November. The rotten wood went to the demo landfill and the plastic slides, platforms and tunnels went into storage.

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“We limped through one more (summer) season, and dismantled it in November,” he said.

The rotten wood went to the demo landfill, the slides, tunnels and other plastic parts were salvaged and put into storage.

At least one Wadena resident was hoping those slides and tunnels could be put back to use as part of a new playset in the park.

“I’m passionate about this because I’m really into repurposing,” said Vicki Pearson, who lives near the park. “My hope is that those yellow plastic things, those slides and tunnels, can be repurposed back into individual play structures for our parks.”

She would like to see civic groups like Rotary and Lions clubs, and just individual community members, come together on a project to replace the playground. “The kids just loved it so much,” she said.

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The tunnel slide was one of several slides in the playset at Tapley Park.

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But repurposing those plastic parts might be easier said than done: Kovar said they were custom-made as part of a predesigned playset, and likely cannot be reused by the city for safety and liability reasons. “For us to use those plastics would be pretty tough — a playset must be designed by a legitimate company for the safety of the public,” he said.

But on the plus side, there is already a fundraising effort underway to replace the playground, he said.

“We do have a plan,” he said. “Our park board knew this was going to happen two years ago and started planning and fundraising,” he said.

The city has chosen a new playset designed with specifications to fit that location. “As soon as we acquire the funds,” he said, the playset can be purchased and installed.

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Wadena City workers removed the old playground in November and a fundraising campaign is underway to replace it.

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The price tag for the new playset was $67,500 two years ago, and has probably increased since then, Kovar said. Civic organizations, businesses, individuals and other groups have already raised $39,500. “We’ve had a really good show of support, it’s just not enough yet,” he said. The city does not have funds for the playground replacement project in the budget, he said.

“If anybody wants to contribute, they can get hold of myself or the park board members,” he said. “I’m happy to explain anytime. We appreciate all the help we received in the past and look forward to more coming,” he said. Kovar can be reached at (218) 632-2766. Tapley Park is at 617 Lincoln Ave. SW in Wadena.

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