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Time for some play: Park and rec, seniors land U. S. Bank grant for play equipment

Austin Park and Rec Director Kim Underwood has come to think of the new park equipment planned at the Morning Lions Club Park as that of the “younger and older” variety.

That unique perspective helped Mower County Senior Center Executive Director Sara Schafer and Underwood to work together to land a “Places to Play” grant, awarded by U.S. Bank in partnership with the Minnesota Vikings. New adult and children’s equipment will be purchased and installed with the funds.

The $25,000 matching grant, boosted by a donation from the Morning Lions Club of $4,000, and a Hormel Foundation grant of $45,000 for base material, will help rejuvenate recreational opportunities at the park. With the match, up to $103,000 could be available.

Children will see a complete replacement of playground equipment upon which to play, while their older counterparts will have adult equipment nearby.

“We have a lot of grandparents who bring their grandchildren to the park,” Underwood said. “This gives grandma and grandpa a chance to do some things, too.”

Schafer, who is also an Austin Morning Lions member, said the combination of equipment for both children and adults was born of “a great partnership” with the city’s park and rec, Lions Club and U.S. Bank.

“And we love to do things for the park,” she said of the seniors group that strives to be more active in the community.

The children’s equipment will totally replace an existing set installed in the 1990s, said Underwood. She said the age of the equipment prohibits being able to get replacement parts.

The adult equipment has yet to be chosen but could include some items such as leg extension bars, chin-up bars and lap bars.

U.S. Bank Market President Corey Mensink was on hand to applaud the project, noting that he particularly liked “the intergenerational focus” of the equipment.

“I can’t wait to see it completed,” he added.

Underwood said she hoped the equipment could be installed by this fall.

U.S. Bank collaborated with the Minnesota Vikings on the Places to Play program, a $1 million, three-year investment across the state. The current grant awards reflect the second round of the three rounds of grant awards planned.

It was one of eight awarded this year. Other grants went to projects in St. Paul, Fridley, St. Paul, Tracy and Warren.