After about two years of fundraising, planning and discussion, the Cole Park Playground Project was celebrated with a Grand Opening this past Saturday morning.

Surrounded by dozens of children, the ribbon was cut and the playground opened as winners of the Slide Raffle took their turn to be the first youngsters to go down the sleek new slides.

The new $250,000 playground was installed last month under the supervision of Mark Mack of Miracle Playground Equipment, where the new equipment was purchased, with the rubber surface being installed just this past week.

While the new playground has been officially dedicated, the work to raise more funds will continue. Additional donations and pledges are being sought, with those businesses and individuals donating $500 or more to be recognized on a special donor board at the new playground.

Right now, the project remains about $45,000 short of the goal, but over $180,000 has been raised through grants and fundraisers, as well as individual and business donations.

Along with that, the can drive, which has already raised over $6,000 for the cause, will continue. The drop off site for redeemable cans is at Bellevue Municipal Utilities power plant on north Riverview.

The new Cole Park Playground marks another major milestone for the Bellevue Parks Department, which when all is said and done, will have invested nearly half a million dollars in the public property over the past three years. And nearly all was paid for through grants and private donations.

It was on October 17, 1949 that the City of Bellevue purchased a tract of land from Lillian (Cole) Smith for a mere $15,000.  

That land soon became Cole Park (named after the Cole family), and has essentially become the hub of activity in town.

Over the decades, the park has grown significantly with a municipal swimming pool added in 1966, as well as tennis, basketball courts, a pavilion and two ball fields which are now used by both Bellevue High School and Marquette Catholic High School for baseball and softball.

The park underwent another major round of major improvements a few years ago, with nearly $200,000 spent for new grandstand seating, an announcers box and a brand new concession building, new scoreboards and storage buildings at the ball field.

The new playground marks another major milestone at what is considered as one of the main hubs of activity in Bellevue.

About half of those funds came from the City of Bellevue, Bellevue Community Schools and Marquette Catholic. The remainder was raised through private donations from fundraisers conducted by the Bellevue Braves and the Bellevue Community Club.

On the heels of those improvements, Bellevue City Clerk Abby Skrivseth, along with members of the Bellevue Community Club, led the charge for even more improvements with the $250,000 Cole Park Playground Project.

“The City of Bellevue, as well as council members and parks employees, had recognized the and anticipated the need for replacing the existing playground equipment as it was nearly 30 years old and has surpassed a typical playground’s life expectancy,” said Skrivseth. “Over the last couple years it has become more relevant to replace the equipment as replacement parts do not exist anymore and as the park has become more active.”

The new playground was manufactured by  Miracle Recreation, the same company that made and installed the current playground in the late 1980s. Of the $250,000 price tag, $100,000 was for the new equipment; $100,000 is for the poured rubber turf (surface); $50,000 is for installation, groundwork, sidewalk border, new lighting, new drinking fountain and any cost overruns.

The vision statement from the Cole Park Playground Committee is to "Provide a social interaction for kids' well-being to allow creativity and imagination for new experiences while offering a fun and healthy option of play."

“To meet the committee’s vision statement, the new playground area now open allows for more opportunities for children of different ages and physical limitations,” explained Skrivseth. “The poured rubber turf surface and sidewalk border will allow for a smooth and easy access for children and meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.”

Skrivseth said the playground equipment is split into two large pieces, each geared for different age groups.  Separate areas for swings (also geared toward age groups and ADA standards) and some free-standing equipment pieces are also now in place.  

For more information about the Cole Park Playground Project or to find out how to donate, contact Abbey Skrivseth at Bellevue City Hall.