A four-year long project to install an inclusive playground at Owatonna's Manthey Park is nearly complete. Workers were putting up orange fencing Tuesday evening around the slides and swings and other play equipment. That's a good thing, as I was tempted to climb around on the new set-up. I can only imagine the temptation going through the minds of the kids playing baseball just a few feet away.

Soon those temptations will turn to reality as the playground will be ready for use by early July with a grand opening set for July 19 to celebrate the 'We All Play' initiative to bring the inclusive park and Miracle Field baseball/softball diamond to town.

Pallets of the rubber material that will make up the ground-area of the playground were stacked nearby after being delivered this week. Pavement is down on the Miracle Field, dugouts are constructed and posts are up for the fencing. A game on the field will be part of the celebration on July 19.

Tim Truelson of the Owatonna Parks and Recreation Department accepted a $50,000 check from the Owatonna Rotary Club on Monday afternoon, saying the project has collected about 99% of the $1.1 million needed to create the playground and other amenities and pathways to accompany it.

He thanked the Rotary Club for being one of the first organizations to jump on board the project about four years ago. Truelson invited Rotary Club members to be part of the grand opening in July. He credited Missy Ahrens and Amanda Gislason with their relentless work on the project from its very first concept.

Truelson said very little taxpayer money was involved in the project thanks to the generosity of local businesses and clubs, in addition to individual contributions.

Former Rotary President Ryan Gillespie said their commitment began when Keith Hiller was the club's president. Fundraising efforts included raffles, silent auction, and personal donations. The Rotary worked with Advocates for Developmental Disabilities and the Early Edition Rotary Club.

Monday's Rotary Club meeting was their first one back in-person since November 9, 2020. The group has continued to meet thru Zoom since then.

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