Prentis Park home to city’s new fun spot

Prentis Park home to city's new fun spot
Over 25 years ago, Vermillion installed new playground equipment at Prentis Park that was new, brightly colored, and screaming of fun.

Two decades later, however, the equipment was faded and broken. Graffiti, some in the form of curse words, spanned the entire length of the slide and swings. The only solution: new equipment.

"We have been trying to replace all the playground equipment in the all of the parks for years," said Dave Nelson, director of Vermillion's Parks and Recreation Department. "The old equipment had been vandalized and broken, and it was just time to move on."


The new playground equipment is comprised of slides, climbing towers, swings, and a rock climbing board, all painted in a color scheme consisting of burgundy, hunter green and sand. Not only is the equipment state-of-the art, purchased from the Miracle Recreation Equipment Company, one of the largest companies in the country, but it also includes more features than the original equipment. The new additions appeal to more ages and will be handicapped accessible for the first time.

Initially, the Parks and Recreation Department had budgeted $40,000 for the replacement of the old equipment. A committee formed of three citizen members and three city representatives decided that although the number seemed high, it was not enough money to purchase outstanding equipment that would last for decades. Nelson chose the citizen committee members personally, selecting parents with small children who cared about the community.

The committee then chose to raise funds throughout the community and set a goal of $20,000. Nelson said each committee member went out into the community, formed contacts and raised more than their initial sum.

Despite their success in fundraising, the committee has encountered several setbacks throughout the course of the project, including missing parts and continued vandalism.

Although the date the committee set for equipment installation was July 4 with a grand opening of July 18, missing and broken parts have plagued the project and delayed the completion of the installation. Nelson said that when the first truckload of equipment arrived, there was one major part broken and two missing.

"Every time we put in a new playground, this happens," Nelson said. "To make matters worse, the ribbon cutting is set for July 18 and the project might not be finished by then. People have to remember, though, that we're building for another generation, and people are going to have to be patient."

Vandalism has been another huge dilemma the city has had to grapple with. Despite fences guarding the new equipment, kids have already begun to scribble new graffiti on the unfinished playground.

Local police have been attempting to track down the kids, who they have identified as grade school children, but so far nobody has been caught.

Nelson said getting rid of the graffiti is easy, but the problem still exists the next day.

"They just do it again the next day," Nelson said. "It's totally obnoxious. The police have worked hard to figure out who is behind it and have even gone to the schools to talk to the kids, but they haven't figured it out yet. Hopefully someone will turn them in."

The new playground will have a large overhead light that will shine over the playground equipment at night, hopefully driving away anybody looking to cause a little mischief. Patrol officer Robin Hower said the new security light should act as a deterrent for troublemakers.

"We try to curb the vandalism by patrolling the area as often as possible by cops on bikes, motorcycles or patrol cars, but obviously we can't see everything," Hower said. "The new light should make people more observable to us and hopefully deter some of the graffiti and vandalism. Are we going to stop 100 percent of the vandalism? That remains to be seen."

The city hopes to finish the project at the end of the week, but even if the missing parts don't arrive, the grand opening will still continue as planned on July 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. The ribbon cutting will occur at 5:30 p.m. and throughout the night free hot dogs, pop and ice cream will be provided. Carnival activities, such as face painting, clowns, balloons, a jumping center and miniature golf, will be supplied by various businesses and organizations in the community.

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