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Safe places: Elizabethtown planning auction for park project

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Parents and others are pressing for a new park to be built in the midst of Elizabethtown.

It would offer a safer alternative to a little-used existing park more than a half-mile away, located along a busy road that some view as dangerous.

Closer to the center of town at 501 Second St., the new site — with large trees as a marquee — offers convenience and safety as other appealing features.

That’s if backers from this community of 500, located about 8 miles southeast of Columbus, can pull together enough financial support in the nick of time.

Nowadays, Elizabethtown resident Kay Barwick commonly finds children playing in the yard of her home and not just her own grandkids.

She doesn’t mind that, but she is among leaders of the effort to build the new park who are working against a March 31 fundraising deadline.

The park, to be built on a site that is one-third of an acre using $24,000 in playground equipment, might materialize, however, only if the community can raise $4,500 by the end of the month.

If you go

What: Auction to raise $4,500 to match a $4,500 grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County for a new playground in Elizabethtown.

When: 5 to 7 p.m. March 29

Where: Elizabethtown Town Hall, 100 West St.

Information: Kay Barwick, 812-371-1363; or Rebecca Barnett, 615-975-2255

Individuals can donate to the Elizabethtown park project by visiting

That money would be used to match a grant for the same amount from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County. Those dollars would then be leveraged to use with a $15,000 grant from KaBOOM, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping fund play spaces for kids.

KaBOOM already has approved the Elizabethtown grant, pending the ability of backers to garner the local match.

A key piece in the fundraising plan is a March 29 auction at the town hall, said Rebecca Barnett, another organizer.

Barwick said her large front yard at 304 Water St. is not fenced in and will always remain open to any of the 150 or so children in the community looking for a place to play.

But even Barwick’s own grandsons, Dalton, 10, and Brady, 9, likely will gravitate to the new, 125-by-120-foot park once it opens a few streets over from their yard.

The town corralled the property last year for $230.50 through a county commissioner tax certificate sale, Barnett said.

A vacant trailer had languished on the new park property for seven years until a team of local residents demolished it in 2011, she said.

Other preparation steps included work by a parent who graded the property at no charge to the town.

The park land since been planted with ground cover and mulched, Barnett said.

Excitement already is building among the youths it’s destined to serve.

“I think its going to be great,” Dalton said.

And safer, adults chime in.

Barnett said the present park looks good because of a recent cleanup project but doesn’t get much use because of its distance from town.

“A couple of kids almost got hit over the summer,” she said. “We have 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds riding over there on their bicycles.”

Funding challenges

Town residents started raising the necessary matching funds, but those efforts — including garage sales and other fundraisers — were going slow, Barnett said.

That’s when the Heritage Fund stepped in and offered to help out, she said.

A letter recently sent to area businesses asked for donations to the Heritage Fund for the project or for goods and services for the auction.

Barwick said organizers recently found they will need to purchase $3,000 in special mulch for the playground, and that’s why the goal on the website is set at $12,000 instead of $9,000. The mulch is made of shredded rubber and is designed to make the playground safer.

She said more than 60 businesses have donated items for the auction, but more will be accepted.

During the auction, children will have a chance to pick their favorite playground design from the four that come from approved KaBOOM vendors.

“The park is for the children, and they should have say in what goes into it,” Barwick said.

Assuming everything comes together in time, community volunteers plan to install the playground equipment May 9 after receiving training from officials with KaBOOM.

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