MARQUETTE - Many families enjoy camping and spending time at Van Riper State Park. Take the Pirkola family of Ishpeming. Their last stint of camping was for 18 days straight.
"We love this place," said Stephanie Pirkola. "The rangers even have activities for the kids."
Unfortunately, though, most of the playground equipment from the two playground areas was deemed unsafe by the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Douglas Barry, supervisor of Van Riper and Craig Lake State Parks, motions to the area near the concessions and beach where the new playground will be at Van Riper State Park as well as an extended bike path. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
Components of the playgrounds had to be taken out, leaving only some lonely swings and a slide.
"Playgrounds used to be a big part of state parks," said Douglas Barry, supervisor of Van Riper and Craig Lake State Parks. "Ours was so dated that some parts had to be removed."
In October 2009, a group of campers got together to form a group called The Friends of Van Riper and Craig Lake State Parks. The organization raises funds to enhance the parks through different projects.
Two of the things they have accomplished so far are horse drawn sleigh rides in the winter, and WIFI throughout the park. Now they have a new project, and it's a big one.
"Our goal is raising money for new playgrounds," said Friends boardmember Julie Hosang. "We want to put a five and under handicap accessible one in the park. It takes a lot of money."
They also want to add another playground by the concession and beach area.
One way they are trying to make this happen is by signing up the park to win a grant from Coca-Cola through its second annual Vote for Your Favorite Park competition. This year Coca-Cola is giving away three prizes to three different parks. The first place prize is $100,000, second place $50,000 and third place $25,000. Only voters can decide who wins this competition.
People can vote until September 6. The Friends group is asking the community to help Van Riper State Park win this competition.
There are different ways to cast your votes:
Go to www.livepositively.com and click "vote for your park." Enter Van Riper State Park in the "search for a park" bar and press go. Click the pinpoint on the map and vote.
Another way to vote is by Facebook Places check-in. You must register with Coca-Cola live positively first, then while at the park, check-in on Facebook with your mobile phone and the park will receive five votes.
The final way to cast votes is to share your photos of family park day activities on www.livepositively.com and your park will receive an additional five votes.
Other ways you can help raise money for the playgrounds is by becoming a member of The Friends of Van Riper and Craig Lake State Parks for $10 a family.
If you camp at Van Riper, you can also donate your returnable cans to the park to go toward the fund. There are Van Riper T-shirts for sale too, which help add to the playground fund.
"We were hoping to have the playgrounds this year, but are shooting to have them up next summer," said Carl Hosang, president of Friends.
Danielle Pemble can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 256.