Pella Chronicle

November 6, 2013

3M makes donation to Natural Playscape

By Steve Woodhouse The Chronicle
The Pella Chronicle

---- — 3M presented the Red Rock Lake Association with a grant of $30,000 on Monday morning.

The money was awarded through 3M’s Eco Grant Program. The money will be used for supplies and other costs for a “Natural Playscape” project at North Overlook Beach at Lake Red Rock.

The playscape began as a Junior Seminar project for Central College seniors Ryan McPherren and Ryan Dusil. The two students, working with Professor Anya Butt, chose this project from a series of possible works provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Red Rock.

Instead of the usual, manufactured playground equipment, the natural playscape will have playground equipment made of natural materials. The playscape will include a water fountain, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) supplies, geocaching opportunities and prairie restoration. It will be located above the beach, on the back side of the adjoining campground. Plans include an outdoor amphitheater, where the US Army Corps of Engineers can present programs.This is part of a nationwide trend to convert from artificial, manufactured play equipment on concrete, to something more natural.

“We think it’s going to bring in a lot of visitors,” Matt Kissinger with the Red Rock Lake Association said of the playscape. He said it will provide another option for people to do while at the lake. The playscape is a first for Marion County and may be a first in the state. He added that studies have shown that children are more likely to play longer on natural playground than on manufactured one.

Construction of the playscape made a leap over the weekend, as 84 volunteers, including several Vermeer employees, took time on Saturday to work on the project.

Vermeer spokesperson Teri Vos said the employees wanted to do something to give back to the community, in honor of the company’s 65th anniversary.

“Vermeer is bringing the people-power to put it together,” Vos said. She said the company is very excited to be a part of the playscape project.

The same can be said for 3M.

Knoxville 3M Plant Manager Tracinda Yaw was on hand Monday morning to present organizers of the project with the company’s donation. This project was one of a handful selected from among the applicants in 3M’s plant areas.

“We’re proud to be a part of it,” Yaw said. On the job for a little over four months, Yaw said she has already become familiar with the lake and North Overlook and has visiteded the playscape site regularly.

Mark Deschenes, Commander for the Rock Island District for the Corps of Engineers, was also at the lake on Monday. He said the Corps is a public service agency and requires input from the public regarding what they would like to see included on Corps property.

The Corps is formulating a Master Plan for Red Rock. Operations Manager for the Red Rock Project, Sherry Duey, said there will be more to the playscape project included in the future. The Corps is trying to move away from the typical playground and bring people closer to nature. The main reason for this is to make people feel more comfortable in the outdoors.

In addition to the playscape, the Corps is planning several other “pods,” including a natural prairie maze and a sun dial. Duey hopes to transition the Corps’ programs from indoor amphitheaters to a more natural setting.

Park Ranger Hugh Howe added that the project adds a lot of value to the already popular project. He also believes children will have more fun on the natural playgrounds than on manufactured ones.

Trails will lead people to these different outdoor attractions. The first playscape’s location is visible from an existing trail and can easily be accessed by families.

Dusil and McPherren are proud to see their project coming together. Though both are expected to graduate in the Spring, they intend to remain involved and visit the projects in the future. Both plan to plant some vegetation in the fall.

They were thankful for Vermeer’s participation.

Volunteers were able to provide more ideas to make the project a bigger success. They called Vermeer and 3M great community partners in the project.

Deschenes echoed that sentiment. The Corps, as a federal agency, is struggling with financial issues the entire government is facing. Maintaining existing services has become a challenge, and expansions such as the natural playscape project would not be possible without the assistance of partners.

Not only are the partnerships helpful, but Deschenes is grateful and proud of the way the partner organizations are working together. This is not common, he said, and believes Red Rock is fortunate to have the collaboration from Central College, 3M, Vermeer and the Red Rock Lake Association.

“This is better than I’ve ever seen,” Deschenes said.

He is proud of the relationships and the team building that exists at Red Rock.

“Working together, we’re going to make a huge difference,” Deschenes said.