The Rotary Club and the City of Starkville are working together to begin plans of building an inclusive playground to provide opportunity and grow the town recreationally.
The Rotary Club is an inclusive service organization which works internationally within over 35,000 clubs to improve the nature and goodwill of cities, according to the Rotary Club website.
Grant Arinder, president of Starkville's Rotary Club, said he decided an inclusive playground would be a fantastic way to expand Starkville's accessibility options and the perfect direction for the Rotary Club's next service project.
"As you travel, you see all of these things that the Rotary Club does. They just support all types of programs. You might see a walking trail or there is a spiral on the top of a cathedral in Milan that one of the local Rotary Clubs is responsible for. In Wyoming, there are these arches that are made out of elk horn which the Rotarians are responsible for. You visit these places, and you go, 'Oh look! Rotary did that.' One of the things that Rotary started doing was building nice, big, ADA compliant playgrounds, and that is what I really want to do with our club," Arinder explained.
Arinder includes information of the current options for the park's possible location as well as the funding opportunities provided as they begin planning for the project.
"The city has a bunch of plans to upgrade the city parks," Arrinder said. "The city has agreed to partner with us, and they will commit a dollar for every dollar we raise up to $200,000. If we can raise $200,000, then we can build a $400,000 playground, which is really what you need to build something that is truly a centerpiece of the community."
According to Arinder, possible locations for the park include renovating Cornerstone Park or completely overhauling McKee Park in order to have enough space to house the project.
Arinder believes the park would be beneficial for groups of all ages and could entertain not only children but also the many university students who reside in the town.
"Obviously, we are building a children's playground, but I think there is also going to be college students in this park because there is going to be a dog park, or a walking trail or a splash pad. It is just going to be a place for people to picnic or hang out or play, and so, it might very well be a place where students go and take their Eno's and visit in the park," Arinder said.
Arinder believes the park could also provide educational opportunities to MSU students, such as those in the kinesiology department.
"I think there also might be an opportunity for the kinesiology department to get some hands-on training and learning for children in our community who have low motor skills or are in wheelchairs and provide them with real practical applications that would be there," Arinder said.
Erin Flanagan, a sophomore biology major at MSU, feels positive about the addition of a new park and thinks it will benefit university students.
"The addition of a new park would highlight the city of Starkville and provide places for not only local children to have fun but college students as well. It would bring more opportunities into Starkville and give the town a place where everyone could unite in harmony," Flanagan said.
Flanagan said parks were where some of her best memories were formed and thinks the addition of a park following the global pandemic would be healthy for local children.
"As a child, parks for me were places where I could explore my imagination and find myself through the creativity I was developing and the equipment provided to me. I think especially after the experience many children have had with COVID-19, this park would provide them with a new light and help them find a new joy in the world around them," Flanagan said.
Flanagan also said she believes other MSU students might be interested in giving back to the community, especially when it would bring personal enjoyment.
"I would love to give back to the community and help donate what I can afford to help the city of Starkville flourish. I would imagine any student would be willing to donate to a cause that would personally bring them enjoyment while also expanding the city they reside in," Flanagan said.
John Forde, president-elect of Starkville's Rotary Club, agrees the recreational project would be beneficial, and the objective is similar to many of the Rotary Club's prior creations.
"When Grant mentioned the idea to me, I thought it was great to support a playground. Our Rotary Clubs have decades of experience with helping local groups from Boy Scouts, sports organizations, Habitat for Humanity and all kinds of different organizations. Grant had seen some playgrounds that had been built in other parts of the country and thought it be a great idea to partner with the city to come up with a playground that would also be inclusive where almost any child would enjoy playing on it," Forde said.
Forde expanded upon what the park strives to reach with the term 'inclusive' and how the Rotary Club plans to add accessible features to the park.
"The playground we are looking to build would follow all the ADA guidelines, and it would be inclusive for most everybody. Some of the examples Grant has showed us have wheelchair accessibility and other types of equipment that normally those with disabilities would not be able to play on," Forde said.
Many of the project's ideas have not been finalized and a follow-up will be recorded once more information is further decided.
"Once we get more details laid out, we'll begin working with the city and the designers on specifics and what we decide we want within the playground," Forde said.