Families visiting Atwater’s Centennial Park this summer will soon find a new feature — a children’s splash pad.
“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done,” said Lee Mickle, spokesperson for the splash pad subcommittee which spearheaded this project in the small town 1,133 residents on the Kandiyohi-Meeker county border. “Thank you for all your hard work,” he told the crowd gathered on a sunny Good Friday afternoon for the groundbreaking.
The project, a dream of the late Jerry Spencer, former president of the Atwater Lions Club, began to take shape in 2019. After forming a subcommittee and much discussion, the group decided to build a splash pad to provide summer water feature fun for the community’s youngest citizens.
The City of Atwater pitched in with the Centennial Park site and included $25,000 in its 2021 budget to match what could be raised toward the $200,000 project. The goal was quickly met and has brought in $120,000 to date.
“It’s definitely a community effort,” said Megan Morrison, a member of the splash pad subcommittee and also chair of the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board.
The Lions Club stepped up to the plate in fundraising. Several local contractors, including Tony Whitcomb Excavating, electrician Ryan Buer, D.Z. Landscaping and Elton Gravel, offered in-kind services for the project. A local Boy Scout, Ryan Busskohl, is organizing an Eagle Scout project to extend the overhang of an adjacent park service building to provide shaded seating for children’s parents, grandparents and other spectators.
Additional funds are still being accepted. Morrison hopes to also obtain a grant from the Willmar Community Foundation, which oversees proceeds from the Marv Otto estate designated for community projects in the Willmar, New London and Atwater area. She noted that a couple of Litchfield businesses, First District Association and the Palm family, also made substantial contributions.
Although former Lions President Spencer did not live to see his dream come to fruition, his widow, Judy Spencer, took part in a groundbreaking at the park on Good Friday. Also wielding shovels were other Lions Club members, Atwater Mayor Mark Olson, city councilors, school board members Morrison and Sarah Blom, and other people from the community subcommittee. Pastor Christa Forsythe opened the event with prayer. The goal is to have the project completed by the third week of June, in time for the community’s Atwater Festival Days.