by Joni Astrup
With the snip of a ribbon, Elk River opened a new destination playground at Orono Park on Tuesday, June 25.
After a few speeches during the grand opening ceremony, Mayor John Dietz cut the ribbon and a flood of eager children raced into the new playground to try it out.
“This is a very exciting night,” Dietz said. “This is probably the best playground we’ve ever had in Elk River.”
People can tell a lot about a city by its parks, and Elk River has outstanding parks, which shows that quality of life items rank high on the priority list, he said.
Orono’s new destination playground replaces a playground that was 25 years old and taken out primarily for safety reasons.
The city has been setting aside money for two years to pay for the $260,000 destination playground, Dietz said. The money comes from the park improvement fund, which gets its money from liquor store profits, he said. The city owns and operates Northbound and Westbound liquor stores in Elk River.
Elk River Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said something like the playground doesn’t just happen. It starts with community leadership followed by vision, creativity and passion to carry it out.
“It’s not a slam dunk. It’s a process, it takes a long time, and this is the result of that process,” Anderson said.
City Administrator Cal Portner said the new playground is different from any the city has had before.
“A destination playground is a place where residents and visitors from the regional area can come and play and spend an entire afternoon instead of just a couple of hours,” he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Michael Hecker also spoke and Park Maintenance Supervisor Rodney Schreifels unveiled a playground dedication sign. The sign recognizes the mayor; council members Barbara Burandt, Paul Motin, Matt Westgaard and Stewart Wilson; Parks and Recreation Commission members Mark Ahlness, Chair Dave Anderson, Dave Kallemeyn, Mike Niziolek, James Nystrom and Guenther Sagan; and Portner and Hecker.
City dignitaries then assembled to cut the ribbon. After a countdown from 10 by a crowd of kids and their parents, Dietz snipped the ribbon.
“The park is now open,” Portner announced. “Have fun!”