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Playground for the younger crowd

Preschoolers now have playground equipment designed just for them at Lincoln Education Center.

The rainbow-colored equipment cost $15,000 and was installed after a parent complained that existing playground equipment at Lincoln was designed for older kids and posed a threat to preschoolers.

The Detroit Lakes School District checked it out and determined that the older equipment is not suitable for younger children. The older features included a chain bridge, a curving ladder, a spiral ladder, higher platforms and hanging rings that could be dangerous for small children, though no serious injuries have been reported there.

Since then, preschoolers have had to stay off the older equipment, except for some digging toys and swings.

"It's been kind of a bummer," for 6-year-old Hayden, said his mother, Annmarie Lacher, who sits on the ECFE School Rendezvous Advisory Committee. "They couldn't play on the equipment all spring."

On the plus side, her daughter, Julia, 4, will be able to enjoy the new age-appropriate equipment when she goes into preschool, Lacher said, watching a group of kids enjoying the playground.

"They're very excited and very proud that their mom's had a hand in doing this," Lacher said, before being called away to push at the swing set.

The new equipment didn't come easy. The Detroit Lakes Early Childhood Education/School Readiness program raised $13,000 from businesses, civic organizations and individuals for the new equipment, said coordinator Coreen Swenson, and volunteers recently spent a day installing it.

"It's geared to kids 2 to 5 years old," she said. It is rainbow colored so that teachers can easily tell which equipment is suitable for their preschool classes, she added.

To help with fund-raising, Lacher made brochures. In the end, 14 financial contributions were received, with the largest being $2,500.

Another $2,000 remains to be raised (call Swenson at 847-4418 to help) and the preschool budget will have to be trimmed if that money isn't forthcoming, Swenson said. A school district the size of Detroit Lakes, with the number preschool students it has, needs a suitable playground, she explained.

"We had to do something after we found out we couldn't use it," Swenson said. "It was hard this past year, when we took our preschoolers out there and they couldn't use the equipment -- it was hard for them."

The new equipment has been popular --"I don't think people realize how much the community uses this playground," Swenson said -- though some mourn the loss of an older swing set that was removed to make room. Those swings were in need of replacement or removal, Swenson said.

The district also supplied some age-appropriate equipment from Roosevelt School that includes lower-hanging monkey bars. That equipment has also proven popular with kids.

"We're excited we have it in place before the Kidfest concert next week," Swenson said of the new equipment.

That free event is Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Education Center.

From 5:30-6:30 p.m. families can enjoy hotdogs, chips and a beverage from the Healthy Families program, get information and register for fall classes, visit preschool classrooms, meet teachers and puppets, enjoy face painting and check out the new playground equipment.

From 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. there will be a free Tim Eggebraaten concert, with ice cream from Dairy Queen from 7:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.