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Pioneer Editorial: Serious idea for play area

Let’s start with this: There’s a lot of great causes out there.

Almost daily, we are faced with requests for our time and money to help various groups and organizations here in our area, nationally and even internationally. Most are noble goals and we hope you’re able to do all that you can.

But let’s be honest. When causes are local, and have a direct impact on people and places in our area, they resonate more. Think local Relay for Life events that help in the fight against cancer, or the multitude of arts-related fundraisers that benefit our community in the short and the long run.

Add another to the list.

A local group kicked off its fundraising campaign Saturday to build an all-inclusive playground at Paul Bunyan Park. In case you missed Saturday’s Pioneer, an inclusive playground is one that is designed so children with disabilities, as well as able-bodied youngsters, have access to the playground equipment.

That lack of access long has been a problem locally and nationwide and needs to be corrected. But building a playground from scratch isn’t cheap. The price tag for this type of playground is $450,000. Fundraisers hope to hit that mark through contributions and grants and build the playground in 2015.

It can be done.

In Grand Forks, N.D., Ali’s Boundless Playground, an all-inclusive site, opened in 2009 after a several-year fundraising campaign. A campaign that was led by — not just inspired by — one Ali Karpenko, a then 15-year-old high school student with spina bifida.

Ali’s passion and advocacy for the project helped raise the remaining $200,000 and the first all-inclusive playground in North Dakota opened to rave reviews that August and continues to be an asset to the Greater Grand Forks community.

We have that same chance here.

The Bemidji all-inclusive playground is designed by Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based group that has built more than 40 inclusive playgrounds in the United States and the world, Pioneer reporter John Hageman wrote Saturday. According to the group’s website, the Bemidji playground would be its first in Minnesota.

Courtney Aitken Gifford, one of the members of the Paul Bunyan Inclusive Playground Committee, told Hageman for Saturday’s article: “There are a lot of good people in Bemidji.”

We can prove her right.

Donations for the Paul Bunyan Inclusive Playground can be made online at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s website. The NMF is serving as the fiscal agent for the project. Donations also can be mailed to the foundation at Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 201 Third St. NW, Bemidji, MN, 56601.