City provides $20K boost to help Mitchell Kiwanis Club build revamped 'accessible' playground

The $20,000 will cover installation costs of the handicap-accessible playground near Lake Mitchell

Shown here is the new design of the accessible playground that Mitchell's Kiwanis Club is in the process of building at Kiwanis Woodlot Park.
Photo courtesy of Kiwanis Club

MITCHELL — The local Kiwanis Club’s mission to bring Mitchell an accessible playground recently received the funding boost it needed for the plan to materialize.

As the Kiwanis Club continues fundraising to complete the construction of the accessible playground that recently broke ground at Kiwanis Woodlot Park next to Lake Mitchell, the project received a $20,000 boost on Tuesday from the Mitchell City Council, which will help cover the costs of installing the equipment and adding concrete pavement throughout the playground.

Linda McEntee, an active member of the Kiwanis Club, unveiled details of the revamped playground design during Tuesday’s Mitchell City Council meeting that features a foam surface, unique handicap-accessible playground equipment and concrete paths.

“The community really needs this playground. We are not just gearing this toward children. We are gearing it towards anybody's abilities in the city,” McEntee said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “We are just asking that the city cover the groundwork, cement work and installation of the project.”

The idea of bringing Mitchell an accessible playground at the Kiwanis Woodlot Park was birthed by the Kiwanis Club last year as a way to celebrate the service organization’s 100th year anniversary in 2021. Julie Hart Schutte, president of Mitchell’s Kiwanis Club, said adding an inclusive playground to the community fits the club’s mission that aims to improve the lives of all children in the communities they serve.


Members of the Mitchell Kiwanis Club and the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 12, 2021 break ground for a new set of handicapped-accessible playground equipment that is expected to be installed at the park sometime in 2022. The Mitchell Kiwanis Club is celebrating 100 years as an organization in Mitchell this year. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

While the previous design of the playground included a wood chip surface, McEntee said she’s learned from parents who have children with physical disabilities that wood chips are not as accessible as claimed.

To provide more accessibility to the playground, McEntee said the smooth foam surface and concrete additions will make the playground much more “inclusive” for people who have a wide variety of physical and developmental disabilities.

“After some of our members went to Worthington, Minnesota, to view their park, they felt we had to include everybody,” she said. “Even though wood chip surfaces say they are inclusive, a mom of a child in a wheelchair or a walker says no, it’s really, really hard.”

Initially, the playground was estimated to cost around $68,000, but all of the features of the new design raised the total project cost to roughly $150,000. The city is also purchasing the equipment for the inclusive playground, but the Kiwanis Club has pledged to cover those costs of the equipment that amounts to roughly $133,000. Some of the new equipment that will be installed includes a handicap-accessible merry-go-round and slide. The 27-member club has been fundraising over the past few months to cover the costs of the equipment.

With the city’s partnership in the project, McEntee said it provides an opportunity for the Kiwanis Club to apply for more grant funds.

While approving $20,000 in contingency funds less than a month into 2022 was a “little unnerving” for council member Steve Rice, he said the city needs the type of inclusive playground that the club is seeking to bring to the south side of Lake Mitchell. Contingency funds are set aside each year during budgeting for unforeseen expenses and projects, such as repairing a leaking roof at a city-owned facility.

The playground will be the first of its kind in the Mitchell community, as there aren’t any playgrounds with all of the equipment being accessible for people with disabilities. The project is estimated to be completed by this year.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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