Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 08 January 2013 15:21
Small rural communities rarely have sufficient tax revenue to develop amenities for residents beyond passable streets and basic services.
But the Lincolnville City Council has been thinking and working outside the box in an effort to develop its city park into an attract resource for public enjoyment and better health.
Council member Sherri Pankratz has been spearheading efforts to solicit private donations and grant funding to fill the monetary gap.
“I’ve been on the council for two years this go around,” Pankratz said. “I’ve been on and off for many years, but when I got back on they gave me the duties of the city park and the ball field.”
Several improvements were made at the ballfield even before Pankratz rejoined the council, including new dirt, new fencing and additional grass. That has freed her to focus on the park.
“The park has been something I’m really kind of geared toward,” she said.
Over the past two years, Pankratz has already witnessed some satisfying results.
In 2011, a former Lincolnville resident living in another state read about the city’s desire to add play and climbing equipment for young children and ended up funneling $12,000 toward the project.
Last year, the city received a $2,500 grant through Tri-County Telephone that went toward the addition of two adjustable basketball goals that can accommodate the youngest of players to the oldest.
Late last spring, the local Girl Scouts troop approached the city about finding a project to help them earn merit badges. The troop ended up planting about a dozen trees along the northwest corner of the park.
“The Girl Scouts paid about 50 percent of the cost and they did the work—I think I dug the holes for them,” Pankratz said. “The city paid about $300 and I think the Girl Scouts did a little more than that.
“Occasionally, we still see some kids coming through with a jug of water and they water the tree that they planted,” she added.
Targeting a ‘fit trail’
These days, Pankratz has her eye on a new project. She and fellow council members would like to see the development of a “fit trail” in the park. It would include several all-weather, low-impact exercise stations, plus the construction of a 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk that would measure exactly a quarter mile in circumference.
“It’s going to cost us about $10,000,” Pankratz said of the sidewalk. “The city really can’t swing very much of that. I’ve gotten approval that the city could do $2,500, and we’re looking for community donations to go along with that.
“If all we end up with is $5,000, we’ll do our best to put in about an eighth of a mile,” she added. “We can always add to it later, but my goal is to get $10,000 to get the full quater-mile in. That way, if kids want to start exercising before school they know that four laps will give them a mile.”
In the meantime, Pankratz has submitted a $15,000 grant request to the Kansas Health Foundation with the hope of generating sufficient funding.
“We won’t know for six months or so if we receive anything from it,” she said.
Pankratz is hopeful for a positive response because of the town’s demographics.
“The population is around 210 and the poverty level is 55.6 percent below poverty,” she said. “Statistics show kids tend to be obese when they’re from a low-income family.
“We’re hoping that’s kind of our way in, that they’ll give us a little extra because it’s stuff we can’t otherwise afford. It will promote some healthy behaviors with the locals and give them an excellent place to walk around,” she added.
“It’s a start, anyway.”
Pankratz said most grants favor a walking/running path made from pea gravel, but she believes concrete is a better option for Lincolnville.
“We have a lot of older people in town,” she said. “We have seniors who go into our community building and do some laps inside there. I just think if they’re outside, concrete is more stable for their feet. We’ll have benches periodically if they want to take breaks.
“I know we have one person in town that’s in a wheelchair,” she added. “That would give them the ability to be out in the fresh air, see the green grass, watch the kids play—kind of enjoy the area.”
Given the uncertainity about the KHI grant, Pankratz is inviting donations from the public, too.
“I would like to get the money raised, and I’d like to see (the fit trail) in place before October,” she said. “The sooner the better, but Octoberfest tends to draw a lot of people into town and that would let everyone see that their donations to the city of Lincolnville will actually go toward beautification and exercise for all of our community—not just those in town, but our local farmers who might want to exercise but don’t want to walk along country roads and get dusted out. Here they can also socialize with other people.”
Pankratz hopes the generosity of others will make up for limited city funding.
“I wish our (city) budget would allows us to do a bit more,” she said. “But with the hard times, we have to kind of reach out and see what we can get from the public.
“If it doesn’t work, at least we tried. I guess we can continue to walk on the street instead of the sidewalk,” she said. “So far we’ve been able to get the park to look so good, and I just want to continue to enhance it.”
Pankratz said the benefits of the park project go beyond the park itself.
“I hope we can muster up the funds because this is one of many ideas the city’s got to continue to beautify the city and attract more people to come into town and maybe raise their family here.”