St. Joseph County Parks seeks $50,000 for nature play area

NOW: St. Joseph County Parks seeks $50,000 for nature play area

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - A natural playground is in the works for St. Patrick’s County Park. St. Joseph County Parks staff just launched a campaign to get the funds to get it done. They want to get $50,000 in 50 days.

The entire project will cost $500,000 which may sound like a lot, but for example, there will be a composting restroom that park staff said could cost $60,000 alone.

There will also be a pavilion for parents, a fishing net climber, and even an area to build an eagle’s nest.

Park staff say it will help kids be creative and problem-solve and parents I talked to are ecstatic.

The River Ramble will be to be 1 1/2 acres and will have several natural play areas for kids.

It’s something St. Joseph County Parks heard people wanted.

“Our 5-year master plan indicated that people were interested in 2 things. More bike/pedestrian trails that were paved and a natural playground,” Evie Kirkwood, the St. Joseph County Parks Director said.

She said when visitors come, there will be an entry arch then a bridge over a wetland to get to the main pavilion in the middle which will have seating and an educational space. There will be a sandpit and hammock village, a shelter building area, some logs for kids to crawl through and a place to build an eagle nest. All of the ideas come from a St. Joseph river theme.

There will also be a play boat, a fishing net climber for kids to play on and a water pump to help kids make a river.

The project is already 3/4ths paid off thanks to Visit South-Bend Mishawaka, the St. Joseph County TEAM program and some other organizations.

If County Parks manages to raise $50,000 by November 21st, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will match it and then they will have the $500,000 needed.

But at the price, Kirkwood said it’s much more than mud and logs.

“It improves their social aspect. They have to make decisions. They get self-confidence. It improves their attention spans,” she said.

Parents nearby agree

“I think it’s awesome,” Marcos Mireles, one parent, said.

“To create a park like that, yeah I think it’s perfect,” Kaytee Lane, one parent, said.

They say that playgrounds are a scarce resource in the area.

“Playgrounds like this, they’re not, you don’t see them like around,” Mireles said.

“There’s not many playgrounds in the area that are easy to get to and that provide the extensive equipment that this one would,” Lane said.

Kirkwood said that even though the campaign started today, they are already receiving donations and pledges and they hope to start construction this Spring.

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