The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher Sun-Telegraph 

Park Project Seeks Funding from County


April 14, 2021 | View PDF

In December 2020, Madison “Madi” Wilkinson and Ally Benzel presented an idea to the Sidney City Council. The concept was simple although the goal might seem a little lofty: redesign the play area to welcome children, and adults, with varying levels of mobility.

In the December 8 meeting, Wilkinson and Benzel said the goal is to not use tax funds and to update the equipment for children of all ages. The concept is to make the play area safer for children and therefore less of a worry for parents as well. The design also calls for the playground to be fenced from the pond and from traffic.

The Sidney Park Project has a board of directors composed of six members. Board president is Wilkinson, vice president is Benzel who is a lifelong resident of Sidney, secretary is Silke Hunker and treasurer is Sarah Sinnett. Wilkinson is a physical therapist assistant for SOAR Pediatric Therapy, Benzel is a physical therapist at Sidney Regional Medical Center, Hunker is an assessment coordinator at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling and lives in Sidney with her husband Zach and their daughter, and Sinnett is the vice president of marketing and technology at GL Huyett who lives in Sidney with her husband and two children.

On April 5, Wilkinson and Benzel met with the Cheyenne County Commissioners seeking assistance in the project. Wilkinson told the commissioners the project started about two years ago with the goal of revamping Legion Park.

“There’s a lot of lack of accessibility,” Wilkinson said.

The goal of the Sidney Park Project is a commitment to inclusive play with three components: physical accessibility, age and development appropriateness and sensory-stimulating activity.

Sidney Park Project, the official name of the effort, is working with Outdoor Recreation Products and have come to an accepted design. The challenge is the funding, quoted at $656,000. The goal is for the project to be entirely funded by donations, grants and community fundraising.

“The last couple of weeks have been awesome,” Wilkinson said regarding fundraising.

She said many grant programs operate on a quarterly cycle. Grant values vary from a few thousand and up with many programs offering matching grants.

Wilkinson and Benzel approached the county in the April 5 meeting requesting funds. Commissioner Randy Miller asked if they had approached the City of Sidney. He said he likes the concept; he just wants to know how much support is committed.

“I’m very interested in it. I think it is a worthy project,” Miller said.

Wilkinson said the City is “showing support right now.”

The request is tabled until County Attorney Paul Schaub can review the request. The concern is how much Keno funds the county can comment in consideration of the fund balance.


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