August 15, 2009

Community rallies to build a playground for all

Coach Ben Lake and members of the St. Catherine's boys soccer team carry a walkway Saturday during construction of the new playground at Lockwood Park in Racine.

To get the whole story about the new playground that's going up in Lockwood Park, you have to go back to a conversation between Ben Lake and Aron Wisneski over a year ago.

Lake's 7-year-old son has cerebal palsy and uses a walker to get around. It's not much of an obstacle for him - until he gets to playgrounds covered in woodchips and sand. While most kids can just walk or run over the soft surfaces, anyone who uses wheelchairs or walkers struggles to move around.

During a fortuitous trip to northern Wisconsin, Lake stumbled across an alternative. He was actually snowmobiling past a school and saw a playground sitting on top of a bright-colored surface. He stopped to investigate and found what's known as a "boundless" playground with a rubberized surface that's soft for kids to play on, but also easy to cross.

Lake brought the idea back to Racine and found a receptive ear in Wisneski, whose district includes Lockwood Park. Lake lives just a few blocks away.

Volunteers getting ready to put a walkway into place.

The plan was to create a playground that's fully accessible to people with disabilities - and anyone else who may be limited in movement. For example, grandparents who wants to play with their grandchildren, but don't want to walk up steps or across sand to do it.

Members of the St. Cat's boys soccer team carry a slide across the work site on Saturday.

Wisneski took the idea through city government and secured money for the project, which replaces some out-dated, and frankly unsafe, equipment that had been in Lockwood Park. Wisneski said the old playground equipment was one of the biggest complaints he heard from his constituents.

The playground took shape Saturday with the help of more than 105 volunteers who gathered in the park to place poles, attach walkways and railings, add slides, tic-tac-toe boards and even bongo drums. Work started at 8:30 a.m. and continued into Saturday evening.

Professional playground builders from Minnesota Wisconsin Playground, based in Golden Valley, Minn., led construction while Wisneski oversaw the project. The result was an impressive structure that will be a great addition to the park.

The playground around 2 p.m.

Work should be done within two weeks. The professional builders will be back out Sunday pouring concrete to secure the poles and then will return next week to build a concrete curb and pour the rubberized surface into place around the playground equipment.

Among the volunteers were players on Lake's girls and boys soccer teams at St. Catherine's High School. The girls actually started work on the project last year when they took wheelchairs, walkers and other tools for the disabled and studied an existing local playground to understand what was needed to build a fully accessible playground. (For example, girls pushed each other in wheelchairs across sand or tried to navigate the playground's layout with limited vision.)

The boys team then worked most of Saturday (the girls worked in the morning) building the playground. Lake said community service was an important part of playing soccer at St. Cat's.

"When you sign up for the sport, you're signing up for community service," he said.

Leaving the playground project, I stopped Wisneski and shook his hand. "You're doing a great thing here," I said.

"We're doing a great thing here," Wisneski answered, pointing at the volunteers who had worked eight-straight hours at that point, and probably had a couple more to go. "We're all doing this together."

Alderman Aron Wisneski works on the new playground in Lockwood Park.

A slideshow of pictures from Saturday's work on the Lockwood Park playground:


  1. Why wasn't Mayor Dickert helping out with this?

    He can cut down trees and shrubs but can't help with this?

    I'm appalled.

  2. You make me sick, this is a good thing for the community and all you can do is complain how one man wasn't there? But you cant acknowledge the work of so many who put this together. Sick its people and attitudes like that, that are killing this city.

  3. Anon 7:15 I worked at the project from 8:00 - 6:00 Mayor Dickert was there and was a great help. Instead of sitting around and blogging all day we could have used your help too, then again you probably would have complained the whole time. And for the record I am not a screaming liberal that needed to support Mr. Dickert with this blog.

  4. funny, i was there, i didn't see the mayor. Why doesn't the story say he was there? Maybe I dont know who the mayor is??

  5. I was there all day. About 100 people came and went throughout the day. It was a great show of teamwork. Young and old pitched in to make this dream a reality.

    Mayor Dickert was there for part of the day helping build the playgound. Dustin and I even joked about whether or not he should mention this in the article because some people would jump on here right away and blast him for featuring it in the story or blast the Mayor for not being there. The anonymous posters did not let us down!

    The point of this is not that the Mayor on any Aldermen helped or didn't help. The point is that 100 people from the community got together and pitched in to improve our city. Mayor or citizen, coach or player, kid or parent - we were all grunts today and it was a lot of fun.

  6. I was there early for a bit It was fun nice to help a good thing for the city.

  7. StopthemadnessNOW8/16/2009 7:42 AM

    It's wonderful to see so many, many people from the community pulling together to make something positive. My 9-year-old son and I pitched in for a couple of hours on Saturday - time well spent!

    Thanks to all for putting this together! It renews your faith in people -- and Racine!

  8. I heard they had more volunteers than necessary. That is great. We need to handle some more playgrounds.

  9. Concerned Citizen8/16/2009 9:00 AM

    Funny how helding pipes up when the mayor's name is brought up, but sits silent on why Weidner still hangs with Becker. Good ol' boy club.

  10. Heart Attack, Heart Attack Man
    Spend All Your Money On Your Health Insurance Plan
    Heart Attack, Heart Attack Man
    Keep On Getting Bigger Because You Know That You Can

  11. Good Lord. I "piped up" because I was hoping to steer things back toward the point of the story - the playground and what it means for Racine.

    This was not about what local pols were or were not there, it was about the community coming together for a good cause and making a lasting impact. People will be enjoying this playground for many years to come and lots of folks were proud to be a part of that. This wasn't a campaign event or a photo op, it was something real and something this community needs right now.

  12. Tim the Shrubber8/16/2009 12:14 PM

    W00T! Way to go Racine!

  13. I am not a proponent for either Greg Helding or John Dickert. In fact, I would do all I could to vote both of them out of office. But, Greg is absolutely correct in his assessment here. EVERYTHING that happens in this city does not need to be politicized. This was a very good thing for the district, brought many citizens together to do something positive and it doesn't make a rats ass who or who didn't show up to work on it. If this hadn't slipped by me, I would probably have turned out for it and worked shoulder to shoulder with Greg and John and put my politics aside for a day to better the community for our challenged citizens. So you naysayers of anything good who have to politicize everything that appears on this site, why don't you just shut up and sit down in this instance.

  14. And he still sits silent on the question of

  15. The mayor was there. If you look in the slideshow you'll see pictures of him working along with dozens of other volunteers who weren't mentioned by name.

  16. Glad there's a special playground for disabled kids to enjoy. Lots of people pitched in to make that happen. Will these folks also find it noble to pitch in and keep it cleaned up? I wonder. Will it get trashed like so many other public places? Will there be enough pride in their work to maintain it? Or will they return to their regular lives and not even notice when they see the trash? I hope they will take pride in their achievement and want to keep it looking nice. I also hope the hoodlums in Racine don't wreck it.

  17. I watched the slide show and couldn't see anyone who even resembled Dickert. But then, this wasn't a "city" project, it was a "district" project and their alderman was there.

  18. Wasn't he in the one a couple before where Wisnewski was about to get decked by the contractor?

  19. Dustin, thanks for clarifying. I give you credit for not gushing over him like Pete does. Kudos.

  20. Congratulations to all of those of you that participated on such a wonderful project. Even John! It amazes me that some people think the mayor should be at every event - you know he does have a wife and children it would be nice to spend time with. And I'm a conservative!

  21. I cannot wait to take my children there. If you involve the community then it should stay nice. Great project.

  22. "Funny how helding pipes up when the mayor's name is brought up, but sits silent on why Weidner still hangs with Becker."

    ROTFLMAO. Some people never stop. Surprised you are not claiming that the whole purpose of upgrading the park is to provide Becker a place to meet chicks.

  23. I don't get the print version of the Journal Times but checking online you wouldn't even know this project took place. Maybe they have something planned for a later story but I find it a sad display for the local newspaper.

    Thank you RacinePost for covering these stories. You add a lot to this town and it is much appreciated.

  24. I read the original post and this was going to cost the city 63K.Then I see in the JT that the cost is 170K .Who's correct ??

  25. Dustin and Pete - there have been a lot of cost figures floating around. Not that I care what it costs because I favor the plan, but what were the private funds and city funds to make this happen.

  26. Anon 11:39 = Wiedner

  27. "Anon 11:39 = Wiedner"