Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Plans for Stevensville playground unveiled at council meeting

bear mountain
By Michael Howell

Thanks to a citizen driven effort, the Town of Stevensville is on the brink of installing some improved playground equipment at Lewis and Clark Park that could rival some much envied developments in the area including Hideout Mountain in Florence and Dragon Hollow in Missoula. The plans were formally presented at the July 10 Stevensville Town Council meeting by Jessica Brunell, a member of the steering committee working on the project.

Jim Houghton of Leather and Associates, an Ithaca, New York based firm that builds playgrounds in every state in the nation and other countries, was in town recently taking some measurements at the park and consulting with the Town and the committee that is pushing the playground development. He was also discussing the various options for equipment and ground cover in the project with committee members and Town staff that included options such as a splash park, a skate park, or a “Purple Princess Palace.”

Tonya Eckert first began pushing the idea at the Town Council about six years ago. Her main aim was to have a playground that was usable by every child, even those who are disabled. Houghton stressed that all the options he was including meet the standards mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We want a playground that every kid can use,” said Eckert, “even those who must use a wheelchair or a walker.”

According to Committee Chair Renee Ruprecht, the committee has already raised about $6,000 to boost the project along. The estimated cost of the project is close to $150,000. Committee members have gone out of their way to include the community’s kids in the design process. Over 500 drawings solicited from the kids themselves were submitted to the committee. An unveiling of the basic design was held at a recent community Design Day, along with a kids’ carnival and other family-friendly activities.

Ruprecht also had high praise for the company that was engaged in helping with the project.
“They are really great to work with,” she said. “They help with fund raising, with organizing volunteers and even with feeding people at the work site.”

Plans for the new playground, dubbed the Bear Mountain Playground, to be constructed at Lewis and Clark Park, were presented to the Stevensville Town Council last week. Jessica Brunell, a member of the joint steering committee that has been working on the project, gave the Council an overview of the proposed project and presented a detailed drawing of the proposal done by the consulting firm (shown below).

Brunell told the Stevensville Town Council that playgrounds are “a critical component in a child’s physical, intellectual, creative, and social development,” helping them to develop skills in relating to their peers and to the environment around them.

The plan involves completing the construction in five days using hundreds of volunteers. She said that involving Stevensville school children in the design of the park led to the name “Bear Mountain Playground.”

“The kids seem to really be taken with the idea of grizzly bears so we adopted that theme,” said Brunell. She said there would be a “bear cave” as part of the facility. “They can crawl in there and growl at mom and dad from their cave,” said Brunell.

The playground is designed to accommodate all children, including those who are emotionally or physically challenged, who will not find it to be a barrier. The swing sets will include a few “therapeutic swings” making them handicapped accessible. Some of the other features also allow children in wheelchairs to access them. There will be a spiraling slide and a double slide for races. A paved walkway from the parking area is planned and the entire playground will be fenced to make it easier for parents to keep track of children using the facility. The plan is to install a picket fence that will be completely see-through to allow anyone outside the playground to see the area completely. The pickets for the fence will be sold as a fundraiser. There is a “Tot Land” facility in a separate area for the youngest kids that is less challenging than some of the things designed for older kids.

Fundraising plans include selling the pickets in the fence, selling sponsorships in individual pieces of equipment, and gifts of materials.

Tonya Eckert, treasurer of the Stevensville Civic Club and a member of the steering committee, said that the Civic Club was backing the playground and would donate the proceeds from this year’s Creamery Picnic to the playground construction.

Town Councilor Ron Klaphake said the real key to the success of the project was the incredible energy being shown by volunteers like Brunell, Eckert and Ruprecht.

“This thing’s got legs and I’m in total support,” said Klaphake.

Anyone interested in making a donation can send it to Stevensville Playground, P.O. Box 676, Stevensville MT 59870.

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