New playgrounds coming here; old ones going overseas

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Kids in Oshkosh, and in impoverished communities overseas, will be getting new playground equipment following a vote by the Oshkosh Common Council June 27.

The council approved a pair of contracts with Gerber Leisure Products Inc., of Mt. Horeb, to install new swings, slides, spinners and other play gear at Fugleberg Park and at Menominee Park’s Sea, Sand and Sailor Land.

The value of the two contracts is almost $243,000.

Both sets of play equipment are roughly 20 years old, said Ray Maurer, Oshkosh Parks Director. He said the city tries to replace its playgrounds after 15 to 20 years “based on safety standards that change [and]the availability of parts.”

But the play equipment that has outlived its useful life in Oshkosh is likely to be played on for many more years. That’s because the city is working with an evangelical Christian group called Kids Around the World that will ship the equipment overseas.

“Essentially …  it’s a nonprofit corporation that comes in and they they remove our existing playgrounds and use those playgrounds for underprivileged children around the world,” Maurer said.

On its website, the group describes itself as an “organization dedicated to impacting the lives of kids with God’s transforming hope.” One of its major programs refurbishes used playground equipment for use in developing countries.

“We restore opportunity for children to enjoy the kind of play that leads to an encounter with Father God in communities devastated by war or poverty,” the website says.

The new Oshkosh playgrounds will resemble the inclusive playground that was installed at South Park, Maurer said.

“We really focused on accessibility,” he said. A key goal is “making sure [a user], whether it’s  a child in a wheelchair or a grandparent in a walker or a stroller, is able to access as much of the equipment as possible.”

Both playgrounds will have rubber surfacing, a perimeter walkway and specially designed components that will accommodate persons with disabilities.

The projects are scheduled to be completed in September, Maurer said.

Photo: Sea, Sand and Sailorland in Menominee Park will get new equipment this summer. Playground renderings courtesy of Oshkosh Parks Department.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

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