CROOKSTON, MN – The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee (MNSBHC) Legacy Fund today awarded Polk County Public Health with a $50,000 grant to enhance the nature-based play area that promotes outdoor activity and increased community engagement in Crookston.
The natural play space is located at Castle Park, which includes a dog park and a network of unstructured hiking and walking trails near the Red Lake River. Kids and families visiting the space can play and interact with rocks, water and other parts of the natural landscape which was assessed, designed, implemented and maintained by the Crookston community. Along with maintenance and expansion of the natural play space, an access point to enable use of the river for kayaking, canoeing and fishing was added and trailheads created at the land and water interface, providing signage and interpretation.
The grant is part of the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program, which is made possible each year by a $1 million contribution courtesy of the NFL Foundation and is complemented by the Super Bowl Host Committee. Through its 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, the MNSBHC has launched a year-long effort to make Super Bowl LII a statewide event by awarding 52 communities with grants that will help improve the health and wellness of young people in Minnesota.
Polk County Public Health hosted a community partner celebration today at the natural play space to commemorate the grant dedication. At the commemoration, Crookston City Administrator Shannon Stassen spoke to local youth about the importance of community, nature and physical activity. Following the dedication, attendees participated in installing a new sensory walkway feature, planted apple trees and explored the play space.
“The enhanced features added to the natural play space will help us continue to reduce health disparities such as obesity in our community,” said Sarah Reese, Director, Polk County Public Health. “Unlike traditional playgrounds, this space is unique to Crookston in that it embraces the natural outdoor environment, while still providing our residents and visitors with open, outdoor spaces for fun, exercise and activity.
Residents and community members of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to explore, interact, use and experience the enhanced setting. In addition to the physical benefits of outside play, interaction with nature has a positive impact on the mental state of children and adults alike.
“Interaction with the great outdoors and rocks, water, sand, mud, sticks and other materials puts kids of all ages in touch with the outdoors and themselves. Nature exploration lets us naturally move our bodies, think creatively, and calm our spirits,” said Kirsten Fagerlund, Lead Coordinator, Polk County Public Health. "Castle Park was created not only to connect us with nature, but with ourselves and our community. We encourage everyone to join us as we take steps to improve our overall wellness together by stepping into the great outdoors!”
“While the project was created to improve the health of our community, this space is an example of collaborative partnerships, community volunteers of all ages, innovations and integrated thinking. Consistent with Crookston’s Comprehensive Plan goals, this fosters pride and a strong sense of quality of life about the place we call home- or where visitors will meet for the first time,” said Shannon Stassen, City Administrator, City of Crookston.
The natural play space is a collaborative effort between Polk County Public Health, the City of Crookston, the University of Minnesota-Crookston/ NW Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and many other community organizations and volunteers. The park’s maintenance and expansion will be managed through a community participatory implementation process.
“It is wonderful to see so many different community groups and organizations working together to create something special like this unstructured, natural play space,” said Dana Nelson, Vice President of Legacy and Community Partnerships for the MNSBHC Legacy Fund. “We are so excited to work with Polk County Public Health and the other community organizations to help the children of Polk County connect with nature and lead healthier lives.”
The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee is a private, non-profit corporation formed to plan and execute Super Bowl LII. For more information visit www.mnsuperbowl.com and follow @mnsuperbowl2018 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.