Project progresses with contractor selected to oversee design of new inclusive structure at lower harbor

Charlotte Neyrinck, 2, of Crystal Falls enjoys the slide at the Kids Cove playground at Ellwood A. Mattson Park in Marquette. Efforts are underway to replace the original Kids Cove wooden structure, with the city of Marquette recently approving a professional services contract with Sanders & Czapski Associates of Marquette. The city will pay up to $77,000 to the landscape and architecture firm to oversee the design and construction of a new playground.(Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — The city of Marquette recently took the next step in its plan to build a new playground at Ellwood A. Mattson Park with a focus on inclusion and accessibility.

The city was awarded a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant totaling $300,000 to replace the original Kids Cove wooden playground, which was constructed in the summer of 1996. The city submitted the grant application in March 2020 and was notified in December that its application was approved.

The grant requires a match of $300,000, and the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee has committed to raising the funds. The $600,000 budget will include design and construction services, city documents state.

At the April 12 Marquette City Commission meeting, the commission unanimously approved a professional services contract with Sanders & Czapski Associates of Marquette. The city will pay up to $77,000 to the landscape and architecture firm to oversee the design and construction of the playground.

The city received two proposals, one from Sanders & Czapski Associates and the other from GEI Consultants. Sanders & Czapski’s proposal was listed at $71,000, with additional expenses of $6,000 expected for topographic surveys, supplies and travel. GEI’s proposal was listed at $58,398.

Each proposal was evaluated by city community services staff and the Marquette Playgrounds for All committee using a criteria based on six categories. The categories included relative experience, experience with universally accessible playgrounds, experience in projects with grant requirements, cost, references and office location.

Sanders & Czapski Associates scored 91.2 out of 100 possible points in the evaluation, while GEI’s proposal received an 88.99 score. City staff recommended the commission award the professional services contract to Sanders & Czapski based on its partnership with Let Kids Play, a Pittsburgh-based firm that “works with manufacturers, communities, nonprofits, landscape architects, park and recreation departments and parents on projects and strategies that ensure that all children have the best play opportunities possible,” according to its website.

“While they were the more expensive bid, the general consensus was the partnership with Let Kids Play will provide the inclusive playground expertise resulting in the best end product for the community,” city documents state.

Commissioner Sally Davis said she believes Sanders & Czapski is the right choice for the job.

“I’m very pleased that we will be providing the contract with Sanders & Czapski,” she said. “They’ve done a lot of work in our community and in the region and have a great reputation. They’ve got a lot of experience with universal design and I find them to be very innovative. I’m happy to support this.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill said she’s glad to see the project progress.

“I’m excited that we’re going to get this going and (I) look forward to the community coming together to support this vital and important playground in the heart of the city,” she said.

The new playground, unofficially named Kids Cove 2, is needed to meet current playground safety standards, according to the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee website.

Officials said that the current wooden playground structure is worn and outdated, noting the United States Environmental Protection Agency banned in 2003 the future use of treated lumber, which was used to build the original Kids Cove.

The new playground structure will be based on universal design standards, with safety, fun and accessibility for all at the forefront of the project, organizers said.

A rubber ground surface will lower injury risk during a fall and make the playground easily accessible to those in wheelchairs, walkers and people with unstable motor skills, officials said. This surface also makes it easier for parents, grandparents and caretakers to supervise their children, according to the group.

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

Separate areas for young children and older children are also in the initial plans. The playground will be barrier-free and will feature play equipment, access walkways and more.

According to the professional services contract, plans should be finalized for approval by the commission in October, with construction expected to start in spring 2022.

For more information on the project, visit the Marquette Playgrounds for All Committee website at www.kidscovemqt.com.

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


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