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Bark River park getting accessibility-friendly upgrades

Photo courtesy of Jane Lanaville At right, a 5,400-pound climbing lion is lowered onto its cement pad at the Bark River Sports Complex, the park near the senior center. After flooring is installed the week of June 24, the new, inclusive playground should be ready.

BARK RIVER — Two parks in Bark River are in the process of getting a major upgrade, thanks to organizing efforts of the Heart of the North Lions Club of Delta and Menominee Counties and support, contributions, and volunteer hours from a number of local organizations and individuals. Most of the fundraising for inclusive playground equipment has been accomplished, with donations still open on Patronicity until July 12.

A small park along the highway in Bark River Township has existed for years, and its old fence and wooden equipment had been weathering for over three decades. Not only was the splinter-shedding merry-go-round unsafe, it also couldn’t accommodate wheelchairs — but the new one will.

Some of the old equipment there has already been removed and the fence fixed. But “the little park” is just part of the project.

“We were going to upgrade the little park out by the highway with some new equipment, and in the process, to get a bigger grant, we went with inclusive kinds of equipment for kids with different abilities,” said coordinator Jane Lanaville with Heart of the North Lions Club. “We found out there’s not enough land at the little park, so we ended up moving it to the bigger park by the senior center.”

The focus of most of the recent work, therefore, has shifted to the more spacious grounds outside the senior center, with the new equipment being added around the ­existing park there. Cement was poured last Monday, June 10, equipment arrived that week, and volunteer work shifts to install playground pieces took place Thursday and Friday.

Additions include: two whirls (like merry-go-rounds) — one for sitting, standing or kneeling and another for wheelchairs; a therapeutic swing; a generational swing, which accommodates children and adults simultaneously; an interactive panel; a handi-accessible picnic table; a lion and a dome for climbing; spring riders; benches; sidewalks and turf.

Apart from a couple professionals — one engineer from WeBuildFun and the company installing the fence — much of these joint park improvements are being handled by unpaid volunteers. Donations accumulated so far have been used to purchase materials.

Major sponsors have been the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF), SD10 Lions Clubs (all clubs in the Upper Peninsula), Bark River-Harris Leo Club, the Hannahville Indian community, Massie’s Country Market, First Bank, Kiwanis Club of Escanaba, Rotary Club of Escanaba, Hannahville Highland Golf Club, Dagenais Foundation, Sackerson Foundation, Community Foundation for Delta County and more.

If the $46,000 goal on Patronicity is reached by July 12, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) will match it. The roughly $37,000 raised in the Patronicity fundraiser so far does not include all donations to the project; that fund was begun only on May 28 of this year, and many of the large donors — like LCIF, who contributed a matching grant for $66,448 — had dedicated to the cause earlier on.

The little park is still awaiting completion, and not all feature donations have arrived yet, like one from Holy Name Catholic School.

A ribbon-cutting for the big park may potentially take place during the town’s Independence Day celebration but is yet to be confirmed.

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