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Moms launch community-built playground project

A group of Hudson women is on a mission to build a playground that will literally be a place of children's dreams.

The plan is for a certified designer to meet with local children Jan. 31 and use their ideas - along with suggestions from parents and other community members - to draw a picture of the $150,000 playground.

While the specifics won't be known until then, the typical community-built playground has plenty of things on which to climb, slide and swing. And it includes structures built around a theme decided on by the community - such as railroading, pioneer days, sailing, space travel or medieval castles.

"The children kind of decide what it is they want to see," says Cathy McDonald, project coordinator for the Hudson Community Built Playground. "We're also going to take ideas from the history of the community."

The evening of Jan. 31, the playground designer will present his drawings to the community in the Lee Auditorium of Willow River Elementary School. The occasion will be used to sign up volunteers to build the playground next June at either Grandview Park or Lakefront Park.

Fund-raising to purchase the materials is under way.

McDonald organized the campaign for a community-built playground in Hudson after visiting one in her hometown of Rochester, Minn., with her husband, Chad, and their two sons, Connor, 3, and Liam, 2.

"My parents called me up and said, 'Hey, you've got to come check out this place. It's really, really neat,'" she recalls.

After a romp through the Rochester playground, the McDonalds' sons agreed with their grandparents.

"They loved it. They just had fun running around playing," Cathy says.

The visit inspired McDonald to ask the Hudson Moms Group, of which she is the treasurer, to consider building a playground as a service project.

The moms decided the project was too large for them alone, but a number of them joined McDonald in forming the Hudson Community Built Playground steering committee.

The steering committee includes McDonald and Kim Burns as general coordinators, Heidi Young as fund-raising chair, Jewel Fletcher and Gina Marrow as public relations chairs, Meg Derrick as children's chair, Angie Norvold as childcare chair, Heidi Tewinkel as materials purchasing chair and J. Kelm as tools chair.

The committee has a Web site,, that fully explains the project and how community members can participate in it.

The Web site provides information on two playground fund-raisers that McDonald says offer great last-minute Christmas gift ideas.

For $25 per name, donors can have the names of their children, other loved ones or businesses engraved on a picket that will be part of a fence surrounding the playground.

At the donation levels of $75 and $150, donors can have the names of loved ones or businesses engraved on bricks that will become the entry path to the playground.

The order forms can be printed from the Web site and mailed to: Hudson Community Built Playground, c/o Heidi Young, PO Box 38, Hudson, WI 54016.

Volunteers to build the playground are needed as well. You can sign up by downloading another form from the Web site and returning it to the same address.

The St. Croix Valley Community Foundation has agreed to serve as the project's fiscal sponsor, holding the money that comes in and issuing the checks for materials and design services.

The steering committee is being guided through the process by Leathers & Associates, a company from Ithaca, N.Y., that has helped design and organize the construction of more than 1,600 playgrounds in the past 30 years. You can learn more about the company and see photos of the playgrounds it has helped build on line at

The city of Hudson's Park Board in August authorized McDonald and the steering committee to proceed with planning for the playground.

McDonald initially asked for permission to locate the playground in Lakefront Park near the band shell. Park Board members, however, indicated that they favored putting it where the existing playground equipment is at the south end of the park, near St. Croix Marina.

McDonald says that since then Park Board Chairman Donald Gilbert has suggested building the playground at Grandview Park, which has more space and parking, and is more centrally located in the greater Hudson community.

The playground will be a great addition to the city's park system, says McDonald, a frequent user of the city parks along with her husband and children.

Not only will the community build it, the process itself is a community-building activity involving people of all ages and backgrounds, she says.

And the beneficiaries will be the children who get a one-of-a-kind playground that allows their imaginations to soar.

Randy Hanson can be reached at

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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