What is the Boon Park Universal Playground Project?
The Boon Park Project came to life when a retired special education teacher approached the park board in November of 2016. Mrs. Vicki Windham, along with two other special education teachers, sent a letter to the board requesting playground equipment for individuals with physical handicaps. Those individuals are unable to access the public parks because of their wheelchair disability.
The timing was perfect. The park department was already working on a plan for playground equipment at Boon Park. After receiving the letter from Mrs. Windham, the park board appointed a playground committee in April of 2017 consisting of two board members, the park director, and Mrs. Windham. Over the next several weeks, the playground committee met and decided the need was bigger than simply adding a piece of equipment for a wheelchair swing in the park. They had discovered there are 743 disabled students in the Stoddard County Schools with 331 of those students attending Dexter Schools. We have a community with disabled family members that sit and watch others play. That point alone is not acceptable. It is time for a change. The committee continued researching and it was decided to make a park with playground equipment for EVERYONE. Our community has multiple needs – from those that are wheelchair bound, have limited limb access, hearing impaired, overweight, autistic or visually impaired, to athletically competitive and the list became endless. From this, the mission statement was formed: To create a playground that provides opportunities for social, physical, emotional, cognitive, and sensory development while making it accessible to people of all abilities.
The Boon Park location was selected for many reasons. It is close to the Dexter Schools and would give them access to a multi functional playground. It is also in the backyard of the ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens). Boon Park has natural boundaries away from major roadways and has the green space to accommodate the needs the committee has established. In 2009 Boon Park underwent a major drainage project which made it necessary to remove some playground equipment. When it was complete in 2010, the park became more accessible and user friendly yet still lacking in playground equipment.
The playground committee spoke to numerous residents of Stoddard County – adults of all ages, teachers, coaches, school aged children, the disabled, their family members, members of the ARC, etc. - to find out what they would like to see in a park. Upon review, they found several pieces that are essential in making this project something for everyone - wide bottom slide, roller slide, swing for more than one person, swings that support the back/arms/legs, spinning pieces, a quiet space or pod, monkey bars/overhead bars, sensory maze, Braille panel, parent child swing, something bouncy, ramping, flat safety surfacing, something high and something low, a place to race or compete for parent/child or siblings/friends, shade, textured surfaces and a bench for bird watching, to name a few. Adding these pieces to a playground allows children the opportunity to grow socially, physically and emotionally with their peers.
The Boon Park Project is a community project and the committee has grown to more than 20 members. Due to the cost of a project of this size the committee has hosted and scheduled numerous fundraisers. The playground committee has raised over $15,000 to date and there are many fundraisers planned to make the Boon Park Project a success. The Dexter community and surrounding areas have been, and continue to be, supportive of this worthwhile project. Fundraisers that have been completed so far include a dollar drive by the Dexter Schools, Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, t-shirt sale, wrist band sale, restaurants hosting a percentage of sales night, and online donations. Upcoming fundraisers include a Halloween costume contest, moonlight gala, trivia night, murder mystery dinner, and more. The committee is also applying for grants as a fundraising source. This will aid in making the playground for everyone a reality sooner.
The Dexter Parks and Recreation Department maintains various recreation facilities in the city including an aquatic facility. There are ten baseball/softball fields (8 are lighted), two soccer fields, two outdoor tennis courts, two outdoor pickle-ball courts, two outdoor basketball courts (West Park and Boon Park), two gymnasiums, six picnic pavilions, a paved walking trail, city fishing lake, and many other park amenities. In addition to maintaining these facilities, the six person department organizes, staffs and oversees the year round community sports programs – baseball, softball, soccer (spring and fall), track, volleyball (youth, coed and women’s), tackle football and basketball. This year, the six person crew hosted the fourth annual Grille It Up community event in East Park. This brought in vendors and spectators from across the region. It is always a huge success. In 2019, they added 7 additional community events – Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt, Silver Screen on the Green, Story Hour (with the library), Blood Drive (with American Red Cross), Back to School Pool Party, The Halloween Happening and a Turkey Shoot out.
The City sets three year and five year plans to accomplish certain projects. Within those plans is a vision for Boon Park. The need for new playground equipment is on the list, along with a walking trail around the perimeter of the park. It is planned to have sidewalk access from the walking trail to all amenities. Before any additions can be made, it was necessary to get a few things taken care of without any new equipment in the path. As stated above, a large drainage project was completed at Boon Park in 2010, which made it necessary to remove some playground equipment. Since then, new handicap accessible restrooms have been installed closer to the parking area for easier access and fencing has been updated around the existing tennis courts. In addition to the plans above, the parking area will need to be resurfaced for better transition from a vehicle to the park. As with any large entity, should unforeseen circumstances arise, some projects may have to be pushed back in order to accommodate for the situation at hand. It is always a hard decision to make and one that is not taken lightly.
Since the initial contact from Mrs. Windham, the playground committee has proven the great need for our community to have “a place for everyone” at Boon Park. Due to the enormity of the project and the time frame given to the Parks and Recreation Department to acquire the funding necessary for a project of this magnitude, the committee continues to push forward in making this plan a reality sooner. Creating a health-promoting park system requires partnerships with other public agencies, as well as with private foundations, corporations, citizens groups and volunteers. Partnerships can be immensely powerful by leveraging the strengths of one partner with those of another. With that being said, the Parks and Recreation Department continues to work closely with the committee's community project and supports their mission.
Please consider getting involved by donating or fundraising to meet our community need. For more information or to ask any questions, please contact the park office 573-624-8244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We always welcome your ideas and comments too. Thank you for taking the time to learn about the need in our community.
Boon Park Project
Current Fundraising Projects
The Glue of Gopher Gulch (diner theater): Tickets are available starting January 11 thru February 12 or until sold out. Number of tickets are limited for each performance. Tickets can be purchased online or at the park office.
Quilt Raffle: Quilt donated by Heartland Quilt Guild. The quilt is being displaced at area business, tickets are 1 for $5 or 6 for $25 Drawing will be February 22, 2021 winner does not have to be present to win.
Dumpling Drive: Holloway fundraiser deadline to order is Feb. 26th
Boon Park T-Shirt Sales: Two designs are available; one is $15, the other is $10. Contact the park office or any committee member to purchase a t-shirt!
Wristband Sales: Boon Park Project wristbands are available at the park office for $2 each!
Upcoming Fundraising Projects
Information on future fundraisers coming soon!