NORTH MANKATO — The original plan for North Mankato’s Benson Park called for a wood playground in the north-central part of the park, near a parking lot. It was to include a treehouse-like feature to help it blend in with the park’s natural theme.
But wooden playgrounds are expensive, an estimated $100,000 in this case, and the city didn’t have the money. It did, however, have $20,000 to buy a plastic playground, which it did last year with local sales tax money.
Now, after nearby families weighed in, the City Council decided on a 3-2 vote Monday to put the plastic equipment near the parking lot in Benson Park. But those two council members and at least two people on the park committee wanted to stick to the original plan and the more natural-looking play area.
“I consider the whole park nature itself,” Councilman Kim Spears said. “It wouldn’t take much to start throwing a little thing here and a little thing there and pretty soon it’s all lost its vision and it’s another field in the middle of our city.”
But Councilwoman Diane Norland, who chaired the citizen committee that helped plan the park, said that a playground was already part of the plan and it will help families who don’t want to wait years for a swingset.
“It’s a temporary addition until we get the more natural play structure up in a few more years,” she said.
Like several other families, the Larsons live in a cul-de-sac across the street from the park. And Dad, Phil, says the only thing that will get his three young kids in the park is a playground.
And if the city waits to put in the more expensive playground, “you basically skip the generation of kids who’re here now,” he said.