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Bud Nadeau removed a section of Round Lake Park’s playground. Oak Park Heights is requesting volunteers to assist with building a community playground.

Megan Tan, Star Tribune

Oak Park Heights to put sweat equity in playground

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES
  • Star Tribune
  • July 29, 2012 - 10:15 PM

It will be the playground that town pride built.

Residents of Oak Park Heights will pool their talents to construct swings, slides, rocking horses and jungle gyms in a single day atop a closed coal waste dump on the city's east side.

"It brings out a sense of community. It encourages a better quality of life for everyone," said Mary McComber, a City Council member who is helping recruit volunteers for the mid-August event. She had received 22 phone calls from prospective helpers by late last week.

Equipment for the new playground, which will be built behind Phil's Tara Hideaway restaurant off Hwy. 36, was purchased with a $20,000 grant from KaBoom! through the city's designation as a Playful City USA. The national nonprofit agency is dedicated to building safe playgrounds within walking distance of all children, and the Oak Park Heights site is near several apartment buildings.

The all-volunteer effort will be the first of its kind in Oak Park Heights, a city of about 4,300 residents that borders Stillwater on the south.

The playground is the first of several improvements that will be made on the former Moelter industrial dump, which was closed in 2010. For 38 years, Xcel Energy hauled fly ash -- incinerator residue from coal burned to generate electricity -- from the nearby Allen S. King power plant.

When the company closed the landfill, a former sand and gravel pit, it was sealed with a plastic liner and several feet of soil.

Oak Park Heights plans a city park at the site. Much of the 40 acres will remain open, McComber said, but other uses include a possible baseball diamond or soccer field. The site already has a paved city trail running through it that McComber said is heavily used. Ideas will be refined by city planners over the coming year, she said.

For now, the playground is all the buzz in Oak Park Heights. McComber and three other coordinators have been busy seeking volunteers who can do everything from operate heavy equipment to handle heavy lifting, digging, raking, mulch spreading and food organizing.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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