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A new era at the park: Funding awarded for new inclusive playground

An October 1998 photo shows the playground and an American Steamship freighter into town as dark clouds, cool winds and rain sweep over the big lake. Generations of children and families have spent time at the Kids Cove park since it was constructed in 1996, and now, with a $300,000 grant awarded to the city of Marquette, a Kids Cove 2 will be constructed with a focus on accessibility. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The city of Marquette was recently awarded $300,000 to build a new inclusive playground at Mattson Lower Harbor Park.

The grant money was awarded through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which provides funding to projects that involve natural resource protection and outdoor recreation.

The new playground, dubbed Kids Cove 2, will replace the original Kids Cove playground, which was built in the summer of 1996.

This new playground structure is needed to meet today’s playground safety standards, according to the project website put forth by the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee.

The current wooden structure is worn and outdated, officials said. Seven years after it was built in 2003, the United States Environmental Protection Agency banned the future use of the type of treated lumber used to construct the original Kids Cove.

The snow-covered Kids Cove Playground at Mattson Lower Harbor Park is pictured. (Journal file photo)

Aging elements of the playground have been permanently removed rather than replaced due to the fact replacement parts wouldn’t meet today’s standards.

The Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee website states that “extensive use and age have resulted in safety concerns for our children playing on the structure. Replacing the structure with materials that meet today’s standards is needed in the best interest of our community’s health and safety.”

The project is a collaboration between the city of Marquette, the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee and the Marquette Rotary Club.

The goal of the project is to make the playground safe, fun and accessible to all with the use of Universal Design standards.

That starts with using a rubber ground surface, which will not only lower the injury risk of a fall, but will also make it easily accessible to those in wheelchairs, walkers and people with unstable motor skills.

Conor Anderson, then 5, Jesse Dupras, then 7, and Brett Dupras, then 7, defy gravity in an April 2000 photo taken at Kid's Cove at the Lower Harbor. Generations of children and families have spent time at the Kids Cove park since it was constructed in 1996, and now, with a $300,000 grant awarded to the city of Marquette, a Kids Cove 2 will be constructed with a focus on accessibility. (Journal file photo)

Not only will the playground be accessible to children, but adults as well.

The rubber surface will help parents, grandparents and caretakers with potential mobility issues to supervise their children easily.

Equipment that caters to children with sensory needs, autism, hearing loss and visual difficulties will also be installed, according to the website.

“This playground project will truly provide opportunities for all children, as well as access and surveillance improvement for the adults who accompany them,” the website states. T

he playground will also be separated into areas for younger and older children.

From left, Isabella Lorens then 4, and Jack Way, then 2, enjoy themselves as their mothers Joleen Lorens, left, and Kirsti Way push them on the swings at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in 2009. Generations of children and families have spent time at the Kids Cove park since it was constructed in 1996, and now, with a $300,000 grant awarded to the city of Marquette, a Kids Cove 2 will be constructed with a focus on accessibility. (Journal file photo)

The $300,000 award is the maximum amount an organization can receive through the MNRTF for a development project.

The Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee has pledged to match that commitment.

The committee will continue to raise funds and will soon contract a playground design company, begin a community planning phase, and then work can commence.

Construction for the project must be completed by summer 2023.

Winners of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants were announced by the MNRTF Board of Trustees, with approximately $10.5 million awarded to 46 development projects across the state.

42 of those projects, including the new Kids Cove playground, come at the local level with $9.3 million in funding to be awarded. The other four projects are at the state level and will receive $1.2 million in funding.

Two other development grants were also awarded in Marquette County.

The city of Negaunee will receive $125,700 to build a playground in Jackson Park adjacent to downtown Negaunee.

This project also intends to be barrier-free and will feature play equipment, access walkways and seating.

The Department of Natural Resources will also assume $300,000 to develop and renovate the Little Presque Isle recreation area. This will include construction of a boardwalk, trail re-routing, trail drainage, parking lot improvements and footbridge renovations.

Grants were also awarded in Gogebic County, Houghton County and Mackinac County.

For more information on the proposed Kids Cove 2 project and the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee or to donate to the project, visitwww.kidscovemqt.com.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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