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New structures to emphasize climbing, sliding

April 9, 2019

Kalispell’s Parks and Recreation department has taken advantage of a playground builder’s incentive program to replace both play area structures at Woodland Park this summer.

Department Director Chad Fincher said the current equipment, installed in 1991, was at the end of its lifespan and refurbishing it would have been difficult as the original manufacturer no longer offers the same products.

“We had to look at ways to make the playgrounds safe and we found a manufacturer that offered a grant for 50 percent off any structure as long as we hadn’t used their equipment in the past,” Fincher said. “With the money we saved, we were able to purchase a smaller structure as well.”

For roughly $100,000, Parks and Recreation will be updating the playgrounds with two NaturePlay structures from Burke Manufacturing of Wisconsin. The larger one, meant for ages 5 to 12, features curvy slides, climbing walls, platforms, tunnels and more. The structure for younger children age 2 to 5 provides a small slide, platforms and smaller-scale climbing opportunities.

One of the goals in choosing new equipment was that it matches the park’s natural aesthetic, Fincher said.

“We wanted to be reminiscent of what the park is and where it’s been,” he said. “Woodland Park has a lot of natural beauty. We wanted something you might find in the woods. When it’s built, it will look like tree forts, and not be bright colors, but brown and green to match the surroundings.”

Creating climbing opportunities was also important, Fincher said. The climbing boulders are popular features of the Lawrence Park playground, he said, and the simulated rock wall and monkey bars at Woodland Park will offer similar chances for children to develop upper-body strength and experience, as Fincher said, “the thrill of being above ground.”

The swings are the only part of the current playground that will remain, Fincher said. He said a modern merry-go-round is on a wish list for future playground improvements.

Marion School is taking ownership of the old playground equipment.

“Marion was very eager to do this,” Fincher said. “If we removed everything ourselves, it would just be going into the landfill. We’re very happy to repurpose it.”

Marion volunteers are expected to be removing the Woodland Park structures soon, Fincher said, and the city crews can then install the equipment and construct the sidewalks that will surround the play areas.

“Sidewalks will make it easier to walk around and give us a way to retain the wood chips under the structures,” Fincher said. “They’ll also make it easier for less-able people to walk around and provide zero-entry points so they can be with a child.”

The Parks and Recreation Department will use its Facebook page to keep the public updated on the progress of the playground once construction is underway. Fincher said they’re hoping to have both structures ready for the public by August.

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.