OSKALOOSA — In 1994, a wooden wonderland was built at Edmundson Park. Twenty-five years later, the playground has reached the end of its lifespan.
The Oskaloosa Kiwanis Club in 2018 approached the city, inquiring whether the group could be of some assistance regarding the wooden playground.
Kiwanis member – and now Oskaloosa City Council Member – Diane Ottosson said the group had some funds ready to invest in the endeavor.
"What we learned was that the playground, being 25 years old now, is not in great condition and isn't really up to ideal safety and accessibility standards of present day," she said. "Being a small club, we know that we cannot on our own develop a new playground, but we offered to lead a community initiative to provide our children a wonderful play experience at Edmundson Park."
The playground was built, Ottosson said, through a community coalition.
"Oskaloosa can be very proud of the unity that made the wooden playground such a fun place," she said. "It also required a lot of fundraising and volunteers."
Kiwanis, Ottosson said, is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to serving the children of the world.
"Our local club was organized in 1921, so we are approaching our 100th anniversary very soon," she said. "Every year, through fundraising efforts, Kiwanis is able to support children's theatre, reading programs, art camp, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA scholarships and many other worthwhile local and worldwide organizations."
Ottosson said the Kiwanis group is inviting other community members to join Kiwanis and city officials in forming a development committee.
"This group will work with a professional designer to create a safe and accessible playground that will replace the wooden playground," she said. "Once we have the design, we will launch fundraising efforts that will include special events and grant requests. This will take a minimum of two years in my estimation."
Oskaloosa Kiwanis recently received a windfall of over $40,000 from the Oskaloosa Community Development Foundation – one of several disbursements given out upon the recent dissolving of the foundation.
Ottosson said receiving of the $40,689 was a tremendous boost to the group's determination to bring the playground project to life.
"With this gift and funds pledged from the Kiwanis Club, we have the seed money that will help generate more funds," she said. "While so many of us have a great fondness for the wooden playground, we have to admit when its time has come to an end. Imagine building a wooden deck on your house and what condition it would be in after 25 years of our Iowa weather. I think we can all relate."
A playground designed for greater accessibility for a wide range of ages and abilities – and one that meets current safety standards, Ottosson said, will reflect positively on our community in much the same way as other improvements we see everywhere.
"We have an incredible recreation complex and trail, our downtown sector is becoming more beautiful through facade projects, the arts are becoming more accessible to the public, we have a new environmental learning center, new housing is being developed all around town... should I go on?" she said. "Oskaloosa is not standing still. We are committed to making our city a welcoming place with something for everyone. The new playground will be an important part of keeping us moving forward."
Ottosson said she hoped that the children who grew up playing on the wooden playground will be especially excited about contributing to the development of a new play space for their own children.
"Edmundson Park is one of the jewels of our community," she said, "and the new playground will make it one of the most fun places too."