Maple City to get Glen Arbor playground equipment

John (left) and Tavin Bauerle (right), ages 6 and 8, visiting from Utah. Photo by Linda Dewey

By Linda Alice Dewey
Sun contributor

Kids enjoying the new Glen Arbor playground equipment but who also miss their past favorites will be able to ride that zip line, teeter totter, swing on those swings, and operate that excavator in Maple City next summer, thanks to the brainstorm of one Maple City resident with help from many others.

It all began one day last summer, when Josh Humphrey sat watching his five-year-old son play at the park located in Maple City by the Lions Club. “I was just sitting in the park with Jax, watching him play, thinking the park was neglected, aware that Glen Arbor’s park was in shape and yet it was all being redone, and …”

Then it dawned on him. If Glen Arbor was replacing its playground equipment, wouldn’t all that be great in Maple City?

The wheels began to turn, sending him on an odyssey filled with questions. He already knew who owned the park, and it wasn’t the Lions Club. He had found that out the month before when he sought answers about the trash problem at the park, when he ended up appearing before the Kasson Township board. He also knew a ballot initiative had just passed to replace Glen Arbor’s playground equipment. What were they going to do with the old equipment? A friend put Humphrey in touch with Glen Arbor park commissioner Ron Calsbeek, who said Glen Arbor planned to donate the equipment, but the commissioners weren’t sure where. And yes, they might be open to donating it to Kasson Township.

Humphrey thought his friends at the Glen Lake Community Reformed Church men’s Bible study group might be able to help take the equipment down and install it in Maple City. But first, he took his idea to the Kasson Township Board to see if the members were even interested.

“From the start we thought it was a good idea to make some improvements on the Kasson Township park,” says township supervisor Greg Julian. “The main reason is that our citizens brought it to our attention that it could use some upgrades.” He was speaking specifically of Josh Humphrey, who he acknowledges as “the driving force.”

The problem was how to do it. There, Josh took the helm. The men’s group enthusiastically agreed to help, and Deering’s Tree Service offered to help remove the heavy, cemented-in poles. All of this would take the removal job off the hands of Glen Arbor Township, which was happy to comply.

In September, Josh again took the project to the Kasson Township board and presented it in the public comment segment of its meeting. Board member Roger Noonan suggested they put it on the agenda and begin their next board meeting at the park.

By that third meeting, which took place on October 10, Josh had called many friends, inviting them to come to witness him present his plan. That evening, the men’s group was there in force, lending support as he outlined what he thought was possible.

Board members were favorably impressed, yet there was still a lot to consider. “Parks and playgrounds take constant maintenance: how much money do you want to put toward that?” Julian points out. Having been on the county parks commission for ten years and heading it up for most of that time, Julian speaks from experience. “Trash at parks—whether it’s local, village, city, county, state, federal—is always an issue,” he states. “We get seasonal people always looking for a place to dump trash. Trash bins always get filled up. So, the solution—I don’t have a solution. The solution isn’t more trash containers.” Kasson Township has tried that in the past at the park, he says. “Patrolling it, policing it, regularly maintaining it”—that’s the closest he can come to a solution.

Notably, Humphrey had already offered to police the park daily for trash at that first meeting. Julian says the township is currently considering that “gracious” offer.

In the meantime, the board has passed the measure to accept and install the playground equipment. Humphrey’s plan has gone into action with the addition of professional supervision by contractor Bob Underwood. Just before Halloween, the largest poles cemented into the park at Glen Arbor were removed by Deering’s, who donated men and equipment for the job.

The equipment now rests at the Reformed church for the winter. The project will have to wait until spring to be finished. At that time, Underwood will oversee installation with a professional crew he will coordinate with the donation of labor from the Glen Lake men’s group and mason Gene “Geno” Novak, who also wants to be involved.

“I feel really good about it now,” Julian comments. They’re ready to go, he adds. “… We have the playground layout and design info from the manufacturer.”

So, come next summer, kids will have lots of equipment to play on in Maple City, and all because a father watched his son play in the park one day last summer, noticed a problem, and did something about it.