CHURUBUSCO — Churubusco will have a new playground in September called Oscar’s Playland.
The park is named after the legendary 500-pound snapping turtle first spotted at the end of the 19th century in Churubusco, leading to the town’s nickname “Turtle Town.”
In October 2016, Miles and Tarah Wilson, owners of Sheets and Childs Funeral Home, were at Churubusco’s current town park and noticed some of the equipment needed major upgrades and repairs. When Miles Wilson approached Madalyn Sade-Bartl, Churubusco’s clerk-treasurer, about fixing up the park, he was informed that the current park’s funds could barely keep the park open, let alone renovate it.
As both Sade-Bartl and Wilson have children of their own, the need for a new playground hit close to home. That December, Wilson’s nonprofit, the Churubusco Youth Foundation, began planning for a new park. After contacting three different playground equipment companies to obtain a cost estimate on a new playground, the foundation began fundraising. Within 10 months, it had raised $250,000.
The finances came from all different donors and sources. Businesses and community members contributed happily and the foundation was awarded multiple grants. Grants received for the park were the Dekko Foundation grant, a matching grant from the Anthony Wayne Society Foundation, a Whitley County Community Foundation grant and a matching grant through a collaborated effort of IDHCA and Patronicity; the foundation had to raise $25,000 in 30 days in order for the grant to be matched. The Churubusco Youth Foundation was able to raise the money in eight days.
While raising money, the foundation began planning the next steps. Members wanted those who would be using the playground the most to have the highest-regarded opinion in what the playground would consist of. To get the children’s perspective, a penny vote at Churubusco Elementary School was held. Students brought in pennies to put toward whatever playground they liked most, and by the end of the voting, the winning park won by a landslide.
Playgroundequipment.com’s national sales manager, Mandy Jordan, has visited Churubusco multiple times since winning the opportunity to construct the playground to survey the new park’s location and plan its construction. The playland will cost roughly $200,000, with $50,000 leftover for its future upkeep and maintenance. Since the playland is funded completely through grants and donations, it will not use any taxpayer dollars.
The community response and support has been overwhelmingly positive. There is excitement amongst adults and children alike for the new, modern playground completion. Many have taken to traveling to nearby towns with more updated and larger playgrounds, which in the end is drawing people away from Churubusco. The new playground will entice more people to keep or make Churubusco their home.
Beyond a safe and local playground, the new park will play a vital role in offering sustainability to the schools, parks, businesses and town. Without people, all of these suffer, and the new playland will assist in providing the town with a balance of the historic, small-town Churubusco so many enjoy while maintaining its viability.
Oscar’s Playland will be just south of the old pavilion near the Scout building in Churubusco’s town park.