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Re-imagined play structure gives kids a new place to play in St. Clair

Renovated Imagination Station in St. Clair
The iconic Imagination Station in St. Clair was rebuilt.

By Bob Gross

The children of St. Clair and nearby communities are enjoying what’s being called a “re-imagined” Imagination Station.

The iconic play structure in Greig Park, which would have marked 25 years this month, was rebuilt from the ground up with many new features.

Like the original structure, the community came together to give kids a place to play.

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An inclusive merry-go-round with room for a wheelchair is part of the Imagination Station in St. Clair.

“It was all community volunteers,” said Trice Hawkins, St. Clair recreation department director.  “The only people that were paid were the consultants.”

The play structure, which encompasses 13,500 square feet, was designed by Play by Design of Ithaca, N.Y. Residents and kids also gave their input into the structure.

The new Imagination Station is nearly finished with a few cosmetic touches remaining to be done. The main build was Sept. 10-15.

“The equipment is more spread out and we have designated areas for age groups,” Hawkins said, noting the original structure was about 10,000 square feet.

The structure includes a zipline, playhouses, swings and slides.

“We also have an inclusive merry-go-round,” Hawkins said. “It is designed for a wheelchair to get onto the merry-go-round and it’s locked in.”

The playground surface is a mulch material that is easier for wheelchairs to navigate than the standard wood chips used on many playgrounds.

Hawkins said the expected budget for the structure was $300,000. “We’ve used $275,000,” she said. “We did get donated services and materials and we are still fundraising.”

People who want to donate can drop off a check at St. Clair City Hall, 547 N. Carney Drive StClair MI 48079.

A fundraiser for the play structure will be at a Halloween Party from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Riverview Plaza Park. Children can leave their handprints on towers in the park with a minimum $5 donation.

Handprints commemorate some of the kids who will use the Imagination Station in St. Clair.

Hawkins said the Community Foundation of St. Clair County donated $100,000 to the project. The St. Clair Rotary Club donated $30,000, McLaren Health System donated $10,000 and Plains LPG donated $5,000.

Several landscape companies and an excavating company also donated services.

“The build week was awesome,” Hawkins said. “We forgot about all the stuff we had to do to get to it.

“It was just a great experience for everyone,” she said.

She said comments about the new play structure have been “mostly positive, but we did get some suggestions, too.

“It was a big decision to tear down the original structure,” she said. “I think people have been pleasantly surprised.”

She said builders were able to save two of the original towers as well as some benches, cargo nets and the chimes that generations of children played with.

Bob Gross has been a journalist for 40 years in Michigan and Wyoming. He has covered subjects ranging from agriculture to zoology. He most recently covered courts and police for the Port Huron Times Herald.

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