Around 100 people from around the area recently filled a room at the Farmington Library to express their interest in the installation of an accessible playground and ball field somewhere in the Farmington area.
Kevin Engler began the meeting by emphasizing that the project shouldn’t be considered a Farmington-only effort and emphasized that bringing it to reality will require many volunteers.
“This has to be a group effort throughout the county, not just Farmington,” he said. “We need a leader, we need a steering committee and we need a planning committee.”
Chris Conway, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Farmington, explained that the city is willing to assist where possible, but cannot commit to funding the complex with the extensive amount of money required.
“The city is supportive of these efforts, but to commit to such a large dollar amount would be tough,” he said. “The city has a lot of services that it offers and to say that we would go out and build a million dollar playground would be quite a big chunk out of the budget.
“This effort is going to take a lot of creative thinking, a lot of people such as yourself, you have a great group of people tonight, some movers and shakers. You’ll need to get creative about how to fund raise, how to get some in kind services donated — such as the county — there’s a lot of great businesses in this community that have already started to help on this project.”
An aerial map of Engler Park that included a proposed layout for the new playground displayed at the meeting.
“Taylor Engineering said they would volunteer to do the original [site planning],” Engler said. “We haven’t chosen any site, but if the city buys in, where is the best site that has a lot of parking, has accessibility, and that we could turn into completely accessible?”
Conway said, “This won’t only be a county destination, this will be a regional destination. This [Engler Park] is an ideal location, they have parking, we have facilities, and a grade that helps on costs. This is a great spot. I don’t think the city would have any problem working with this group. In addition, the city can provide some in kind services with electric and water.”
An audience member asked where to donate funds for the playground and ball field.
Engler answered that this is one of the issues to be resolved when the group is formed and up and running.
”The Chamber of Commerce has a foundation, we could run it through that,” he said. “They would segregate the funds. Or there’s a couple of agencies that provide services that we want to interview. One of the things they usually do is provide a conduit to do that through — but we want to make sure that doesn’t cost us.”
Engler returned to the issue of spurring the city of Farmington to get involved in funding and construction of the complex.
“We’re going to try to encourage Farmington to invest the amount that they would be putting into replacing the playground into upgrading the playground,” Engler said. [Farmington] has a tourism fund, challenger ball fields and tournaments will bring people in.
“If we’re going to sell it to the tourism fund, asking for a six-figure donation, they’re going to ask how this will bring people to town. This is funded by sales taxes. You have to show that long term when the people come, that they also go to eat, or go to shop. If we get our ducks in a row, Farmington will participate with a big percentage.”
According to Engler, more than a few sponsorships will be necessary to meet the funding goals required to build the playground and ball field.
“One of the things were going to have to try to do, is corporate sponsorship,” he said. “We have to have individual buy-ins, have matching grants where the local workers would contribute and the employers would match the contributions.”
Cassie Thomas is office coordinator for the L.I.F.E. Center in Farmington and has been helping Engler to get the fundraising project off the ground and operational.
“Our goal for tonight is to make sure that everyone is interested in this and you’re ready to work hard,” she said. “We need to set up our committees and get them going as quickly as possible, so that we can get things moving and who’s in charge of each committee. We also need to set up a time to meet next time.”
Kendra Gibson of All Inclusive Rec played a video animation of how the Perryville park is going to be laid out.
“Part of what we do with these inclusive playgrounds is not just put playground equipment in,” she said. “To customize it, we want kids to use their imagination and we want kids of all abilities to be able to play on this playground. And not just kids with disabilities playing on this playground, we want them playing side by side and feeling empowered to play with their friends.”
Victoria Schmitt Babb of Cunningham Recreation and Play 4 All explained that if hired, their companies would be involved in all the processes the project will need to have completed.
“This is probably the greatest turnout I’ve seen — and I’ve been doing this all over the country,” she said. “I work with communities on how to fund raise. I have people on staff that help with research, grant writing, creating the digital format, push pieces and tools that a lot of corporate people expect when you’re pitching them.”
Engler said, “We need to set up a GoFundMe account. There are some people in the community that don’t want to be bothered but they would like to put some money in.”
For further information about the project, contact Cassie Thomas at the L.I.F.E. Center in Farmington at 573-756-4314 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com.