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Willmar’s destination playground planners want to hear from the kids

Children in and around Willmar are being asked for their very best playground design ideas for the destination playground planned for Robbins Island. Sheets for submitting ideas ahead of the Aug. 16 Design Day can be found at Home Depot, Cub Foods, Cash Wise Foods and the YMCA. (Shelby Lindrud / Tribune)

WILLMAR -- When it comes to designing the destination playground proposed for Willmar’s Robbins Island Park, playground planners are going directly to those who will use the playground the most -- kids.

“The children of the community get to dream and envision what they want in their playground,” said Sara Carlson, Willmar Area Community Foundation executive director.

The plan is use the children’s ideas to form an idea of what the final playground design might be.

“Children have an enormous capacity to be imaginative. They live with it everyday, all the time,” Carlson said.

The Willmar destination playground is being organized by a group of citizens. The project is estimated to cost around $800,000, with all of it being privately funded. The Willmar planners are using the Wildcat Cove playground in Spicer’s city park as inspiration.

“A community doesn’t build a playground like this every day,” Carlson said.

Children are invited to share their ideas during the Design Day event from 10 to 11 a.m Aug. 16 at Roosevelt Elementary School and the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA. Planners prefer families attend the event at Roosevelt, as the YMCA site is mostly for day camps and summer groups. However, children who come to the YMCA will not be turned away.

“We’re not going to turn away any good ideas,” Carlson said.

Design coloring sheets are also available for children at the Willmar Home Depot, Cub Foods, Cash Wise Foods and the YMCA, as well as online at www.willmarplayground.com. The completed sheets with kids’ design ideas can be returned to drop boxes at those same locations.

“They will be giving us some thought on what would be exciting for a kindergartner, a fifth-grader,” Carlson said.

Leathers & Associates, of Ithaca, New York, will be sending designers to Willmar to meet with area children Tuesday and take those ideas and create a rough draft of what the playground might look like. Carlson said the Leathers designers will also have been sent some of the design sheets in advance to give them an idea of what Willmar’s youngest residents are thinking of.

Leathers & Associates was also behind the Wildcat Cove playground on Green Lake in Spicer and has been part of community playground projects across the country.

Following the Tuesday design sessions with the kids, the designers will be at the YMCA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., publicly sketching a playground plan. Those interested can stop by and see them work. The designers will also work privately to finish the design.

The rough design -- which Carlson said may not be the final design -- will be unveiled during the Rockin’ Robbins concert Tuesday night at Robbins Island. The Rockin’ Robbins concert series is a joint effort of the Willmar Rotary Club and the Willmar Lakes Rotary Club, and funds raised will go toward the playground.

The playground planners want to make sure the playground is accessible to all children, of all backgrounds and abilities. This is another reason they felt having the children involved was so important.

“This is a community project,” Carlson said, adding there will be translation services available during Design Day, so all children can participate.

While the children will get to dream the playground up, adults will be needed to make it a reality.

Individuals, businesses and organizations can donate to the playground project through the Willmar Area Community Foundation, which is acting as the project’s fiscal host. A link to the The Friends of Robbins Island Park Fundcan be found at www.willmarplayground.com.

“They can make gifts at any time,” Carlson said.

The community will have other opportunities to help donate to the playground by sponsoring items such as fence posts or paver bricks, Carlson said.

“We’re really encouraged, the energy is amazing,” Carlson said.

The playground group is also looking for those willing to volunteer, either with the planning and design stage, fundraising or building the playground itself next year. More information on volunteering can be on the playground website.

“There is a lot of man power going into this,” Carlson said.

Playground supporters believe this playground will be just the first step in bringing Robbins Island up to its potential.

“We believe the playground will be the tipping point for many exciting things at Robbins Island,” Carlson said.

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