Woman rallies community to donate to replace Tapley Park playset

A popular playset at a Lincoln Avenue Southwest park was torn down in November due to its deterioration. A neighborhood resident challenges others to come up with the money to help buy a new playset.

The wooden playset at Tapley Park is set to be replaced once enough funds are raised to buy a new structure. It's been open for playing since June 2011. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The loss of a beloved Tapley Park playset hits close to home for Vicki Pearson.

The neighborhood resident’s grandchildren used to play on the popular playground equipment before it was dismantled in November due to safety concerns over its deterioration.

“Last fall, a big play structure had to come down over there because it's about 10, 12 years old and it started to splinter and become unsafe for kids … which is a very sad thing for Tapley Park because there's a lot of people that use this area,” Pearson said.

The wooden fort-like playground had many ways children could play on or with it: crawl through its tunnels or tubes, climb ladders to the top of it, go down its slides or simply run around it.

Park Project1 (edited).png
The fort-like wooden playset in Tapley Park before it was dismantled in November.
Contributed Photo

The playset was mostly constructed with local donations after the previous playset was damaged by a 2010 tornado, according to Wadena Public Works Director Dan Kovar.


“The play structure was a great structure, but it was just old and running out of steam,” Pearson said. “We live next door so we're very passionate about our park here. And we have tried to keep it clean and safe.”

Tapley Park’s amenities include an open play area, a large enclosed reservable picnic shelter, tables, a grill, restrooms, a soccer field, a basketball court, nature trails, a pond, horseshoe pits and a volleyball court.

“As the Tapley Park shelter is used by many high school graduation celebrations, family reunions, anniversary parties and church functions, the play structures are enjoyed during events and in constant motion!” Pearson said.

Celebrating a first at Tapley Park
Cathy Steward holds granddaughter Zaviera Steward on her first birthday while they wait with Zaviera's mother, Quinnel Arthur, for party guests to arrive. Friends and family came to celebrate at Tapley Park.
Wadena Pioneer Journal file photo

Kovar said previously the wooden part of the playset that was torn down last fall did not hold up as well as hoped, and in the past few years city staff and neighbors have replaced rotting wood and done whatever repairs were needed to keep children safe that used the former playset.

“As next-door neighbors, we have become unofficial ‘caretakers’ of our beloved park – trying to keep it clean and safe as a fun form of outdoor entertainment. … Thus, we are very passionate about seeing this structure replaced as quickly as possible,” Pearson explained.

The rotten wood of the dismantled playest went to the demo landfill, and the slides, tunnels and other plastic parts were salvaged and put into storage. The city has chosen a new playset designed with specifications to fit the Tapley Park location.

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An artist's rendition of the replacement playground equipment planned for Tapley Park if enough money could be raised.
Contributed Photo

The price tag for the new playset was $67,500 two years ago and has probably increased since then, Kovar said in January; civic organizations, businesses, individuals and other groups have already raised $39,500 to help make up the difference in the purchase price.

“The city has about $40,000 to spend on the play structure to replace it and it's going to cost about $100,000, so I emailed a letter to the editor challenging people to meet our $500 donation to get to that goal,” Pearson said earlier this month.


Pearson would like to see civic groups like Rotary and Lions clubs, and individual community members, come together on the project to replace the playset. The city-selected replacement playset will be installed as soon as the funds are available to purchase the new equipment.

“Costs keep going up with inflation so the longer it takes to raise these funds, the more expensive this thing is going to get,” Pearson said.

The city does not have funds for the playground replacement project in the budget, according to Kovar. With the approval of the Wadena City Park Board, Pearson is asking for financial contributions to support the purchase and installation of the new replacement playset.

“In addition … we would like to toss out a challenge to 100 of our community friends and neighbors by matching our $500 contribution by May 1 to quickly make this project happen for a summer of fun for our community families and kids!” Pearson said.

Checks may be made payable to the “City of Wadena” (with “Tapley Park” in the memo) and mailed to the City of Wadena, 222 Second St. SE, Wadena, Minnesota 56482. (Monetary donations that are received will not be used for any other purposes, according to Pearson.)

FRANK LEE is a features writer for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. He may be reached at 218-631-6470 or at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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