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Archived Story

Park no pie in the sky

Published 12:09pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The opening of Mud Pie Adventure Park was extremely important to Jane Patrick.

So important, in fact, she kept working on the project months after resigning from the Otter Tail County Early Childhood Initiative.

“Once you start something like this, you put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine myself not being there for the ribbon-cutting.”

Now she can move on to another challenge.

The 20,000-square-foot park has been open to children from McKinley Elementary School for the past few weeks. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to signify the official opening of the park.

Patrick officially resigned from her role as coordinator with Early Childhood Initiative July 1, but she stayed on board to see the park project to completion.

Mud Pie Adventure Park was set up in a joint effort by the Early Childhood Initiative and the Fergus Falls School District. The park was designed mainly for use by McKinley students, but will also be open to the public during after-school hours and on weekends.

“Our goal was to have something similar to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, but for little kids,” Patrick said.

Early Childhood Initiative’s primary focus is to identify needs for young children and their families and to work to improve these areas of need. Several years ago, Patrick said the group saw a need for a more age-appropriate play area for younger children, so the process of creating Mud Pie Adventure Park began.

It was certainly a lengthy process. There were countless meetings with city and school officials about what needed to be done. The initial plan, Patrick said, was to build an indoor play space, but that had to be put on hold because of budget constraints.

Eventually, the sides agreed on the framework of the park. A jungle gym was the first thing built, a project which cost an initial $30,000, according to Patrick. The entire project ended up costing about $80,000.

Now that the park is open, Patrick has heard positive feedback from parents and community members. Denise Fredericks, a teacher in the Head Start program at McKinley, had had her students in the park and can see how much they are enjoying it.

“It’s obviously way better than what we’ve recently had to play on,” she said. “When I first started here at McKinley there was nothing back there.”

Fredericks’ students usually play outside for between 15 and 20 minutes each day, even on colder days. She expects children to enjoy the park even more when the weather turns warmer again in the spring.

The park has a wide variety of options for children. There are sandboxes, garden areas, swings and a stage set up, among other things. Coupled with the hills and trees in the park, it’s an ideal place for younger children, according to Patrick.

The idea of an indoor play space has not been entirely forgotten, and Patrick would not be surprised to see Early Childhood Initiative keep those discussions alive in the future.

But the work she put into seeing Mud Pie Adventure Park open is a legacy she is happy to leave behind at her former employer.

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