Challenge grant issued to help fund inclusive playground in Shoreview

An artist rendering of Turtle Lake Elementary School’s “A Playground for Everyone,” which will be the area’s first inclusive playground. The playground committee still needs donations to make the unique playground a reality.

The Turtle Lake Elementary “A Playground for Everyone” campaign has received a  $5,000 challenge grant from the Shoreview Community Foundation. The challenge, launched on Feb. 1, will match new donations from individual Shoreview residents of up to $5,000 through April 1.

“The Turtle Lake Playground for Everyone will enrich our whole community for healthy recreation in an inclusive environment. We are pleased that these funds, donated by residents and businesses, will help move the project to completion and encourage members of the Shoreview community to support the campaign,” Shoreview Community Foundation Vice Chair Kent Peterson said in a written statement.

The 5,400-square-foot playground will be the first of its kind in the north metro and will replace the existing outdoor playground at Turtle Lake Elementary School. The school’s current playground is 20 years old and showing signs of wear. Over two years ago, a playground committee was formed and members soon realized that the current playground was not meeting the needs of its over 1,000 students.

A Playground for Everyone will provide children with special needs full access to all of its features and will allow children of all abilities the chance to play together, as well as their parents and grandparents.

“This will be a great community asset, because it’s unlike anything you can find in the north metro,” playground committee project chair Jen Sprain said.

The playground will have ramps connecting all of its features, and rubber tiles will replace wood chips on the ground, making it easy for kids and adults who rely on wheelchairs and walkers to get around the playground.

Some of the playground’s many features include ramping throughout, even to the highest point where a slide will be built; a rock’n ship with treasure map that gently sways side to side; multiple slides, including a large steel slide designed for kids with cochlear implants that cannot use plastic ones due to static electricity that can short the implants out; a rock climbing wall and “infinity climber;” hoopla bridge and team swing; music and Braille panels as well as a telescope. The playground will also include independent events such as a stand-n-spin, solo spinner, teeter-totter and jack hammer where children who may be overwhelmed by a crowd can play in smaller groups.

While the challenge grant to fund the playground only applies to Shoreview residents, playground committee member Katie Johnson encourages people from other communities in the north metro to contribute toward the playground as well, because families from all over the region will enjoy it. Johnson says the closest inclusive playgrounds are in Edina and Red Wing, so the Turtle Lake Elementary Playground will truly be a great community asset for the whole north metro.

As of Jan. 24, the Turtle Lake Elementary Playground Committee has secured $115,709 toward the goal to raise $280,000 by April 1.

“I am optimistic we will meet our goal, but there is a sense of urgency. We need community support to get this done,” Spain says.

Little Tikes Commercial will be building the playground, and the committee is hoping that construction will start early summer and be completed by the time school starts in September.

For more information on the project, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the project’s website at Checks can be made out to the Turtle Lake Elementary PTA (memo: Playground) and mailed to Turtle Lake Elementary PTA, 1141 Lepak Ct., Shoreview, MN 55126.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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