Time is ticking toward the groundbreaking of a fully accessible playground in Hays, and organizers are now looking to the business community in their drive to receive a matching grant for their funds raised.
Organizers of the Hays Accessible Recreation Complex, slated for Seven Hills Park at 33rd and Hillcrest, said Tuesday they have raised around half the amount needed for the $1.7 million park and have their sights on submitting a matching grant request to the Dane G. Hansen Foundation in June with whatever funds they have at that time.
The complex will include a playground, baseball field and splash pad, all designed to be accessible by those of all ages and abilities.
The timeline is important, they said, to allow for equipment to be ordered and shipped, and construction to begin before winter, especially on the rubber surface of the 13,600-square-foot playground.
“It’s pour-in-place material. So it has different layers to it. It’s basically a latex-free rubber. The designer told us it would take a week and a half just to get the flooring,” said Sarah Meitner, a board member of the Arc of the Central Plains.
Temperatures will have to be at 40 degrees or above for that time period.
“I’m counting on being able to build into October, but we know we need that temperature above 40 for a week and a half. And remember last October, it was cold Oct. 3,” she said.
Arc Activities Director Brent Kaiser said the rubber surface must be poured all at once, and while other parts of the park, such as the splash pad, could be constructed later, it would be better to get all the concrete work completed before winter as well.
“We also feel like if we have to build in phases, the splash pad is going to get pushed back. Building all at the same time is the more cost-effective solution,” said Kathy McAddo, Arc executive director.
The splash pad, while not something the park’s committee has pushed in its publicity and information, is something highly desired in the community, they said.
“It is something that a lot of other communities have, even smaller communities,” Kaiser said.
“It’s a perfect fit for our complex because of how kids can play safely in it and feel that independence,” Meitner said.
The splash pad will have a recirculated filter system with a 10 percent evaporation rate, so it would use little water, Meitner said.
As the design stands now, the total cost of the project is about $1.7 million, Kaiser said, a little higher than the original $1.6 million originally proposed.
That could still change, as some of the equipment has changed or been added to. The committee recently added a wheelchair-accessible merry go-round, for example. An in-kind donation of turf installation for the ballfield has also been made by former Hays resident Trey Moeder, president and CEO of Forever Lawn Mile High in Colorado Springs. The committee is still waiting to hear the fair market cost of that donation.
In the 10 months since the plans for the park were announced, much of the funds raised have come from individuals, so getting more companies involved will be key to the push for matching funds from Hansen, McAdoo said.
More than 250 individuals and 85 businesses have donated so far, she said.
The committee understands companies might have already exhausted their donations allocated in their budgets for the year, but even a pledge from their next fiscal year can be included in the Hansen grant application, she said.
“If they’re going to make a donation, we’d really like to know about it. We’d really like to know by the middle of June if possible so we can try to get this done this fall,” Meitner said.
“If we don’t get it, we’re not giving up. We’re going to go to Hansen and see what we can get,” she said.
The youth of the community has especially been a big part of the fundraising.
“The kids are all in,” McAdoo said, with fundraisers conducted in the area grade schools all the way up to student groups at Fort Hays State University.
Children have brought change from their piggy banks, lemonade stands and their Tooth Fairy money, Meitner said.
“A little Daisy Troop, four girls. They got to pick where they wanted to spend their cookie money. They’re donating $500 to the park. And they’re not doing camp or anything because they wanted to give it to the park,” Meitner said.
“So now we just need the rest of the community, the adults, the business owners, the ones who maybe have the means to not just bring in Tooth Fairy money, step up and do what they can do,” she said.
Donations can be made at haysarcpark.org or by contacting the Arc of the Central Plains at 600 Main or 785-628-8831.