By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Playgrounds are typically prime places for children to create lasting memories, but Delano’s newest recreational area is bound to trigger memories for adults, as well.
Barb King Inspiration Park (formerly Woodland Meadows Park) will be built this fall in memory of the woman who founded Landscape Structures with her husband, Steve, in 1971.
Barb, 61, passed away in March 2008, after a seven-month battle with cancer.
“We decided we would build a very special playground as a memorial,” Steve said. Landscape Structures is donating more than $100,000 worth of one-of-a-kind equipment.
Many people remember Barb for her dedication to health and the environment, and this playground will exemplify those attributes.
“We’ve got it all designed,” Steve said. “I think she’d be pleased.”
The materials for the unique play structures were chosen specifically for this playground because they have a 50 to 80 percent recycled material content.
“We’re going to have a lot of industrial-looking colors,” Steve said.
“There is no other playground like it, just as there was no other person like Barb,” a statement at the entrance to the park will read. “May you find it a place of wonder, joy, and inspiration.”
Delano parks and recreation recently helped put in a large park sign, which features a stone-inspired base and white lettering.
Installation of the actual play equipment, however, will need to wait until the City of Delano makes improvements to the site.
“We’re happy to be able to continue Barb’s legacy in this way,” City Administrator Phil Kern said.
The city plans to construct a storm water pipe in the area of the ditch through the park. A grading plan is also in place for reshaping the southern third of the park.
Funding for the storm water pipe and grading will come from the city’s 2010 capital improvement fund.
“It’s going to make the whole park more usable, not just the playground area,” Kern said. “We have about $100,000 in the budget for it.”
Improvements will start this month, and playground construction is scheduled to begin in August.
By late August, construction should be complete, and a grand opening celebration is planned for September. Steve said he would like to have people from the community plant trees during the celebration.
Community volunteers might also have the opportunity to get involved in the playground equipment setup, he added.
“We might do a community build,” he said “That would be a fun project.”
About the equipment
The new playground equipment will be a definite upgrade from the existing equipment, according to Steve.
“The park has some very old equipment, 15 to 20 years old, that doesn’t meet current standards,” he explained.
The new equipment donated by Landscape Structures will feature an array of intriguing structures, including an integrated climbing net called a “Spacenet.”
“I like the Spacenets a lot,” Steve said.
They’re made from high-strength, steel-reinforced climbing cables, and they help children develop coordination, agility, and strength.
The playground will also have two saddle spinners, which allow children to spin by shifting their body weight. These devices help develop depth perception and balance skills.
A stand-up seesaw, cozy dome, and double bobble spring rider are a few of the other interesting structures.
Parents can get a workout while watching their children at the playground, by using the HealthBeatTM Cardio Stepper. It provides a heart-healthy workout for teenagers and adults of all fitness levels.
“We develop 10 to 20 new products a year,” Steve said.
The early years
A lot has changed in the playground manufacturing world since Barb and Steve began Landscape Structures in their garage in 1971.
“We started out with only wooden play structures,” Steve said. The last one they put in was in 1992, and now they mainly use steel, aluminum, and plastics.
Barb and Steve met as students at Iowa State University, and were married in 1967. Barb, a food science graduate, started out working at Pillsbury, while Steve was employed as a landscape architect.
The idea for Landscape Structures came from Steve’s college thesis.
“It was so wildly successful that I decided to quit my job and start manufacturing the designs,” he said.
Barb became an accomplished marketer and operations manager for the company, while Steve worked on the designs.
“She was very instrumental in the development of the company,” Kern said.
“Barb was quite the lady,” Steve added. “She was very popular.”
In addition to her work at Landscape Structures, Barb was also known for creating the Sajai Foundation, which remains dedicated to battling childhood obesity. The foundation works to teach children nationwide how to make positive lifestyle choices and live in greater harmony with the world around them.
Landscape Structures has been instrumental in the creation of many of Delano’s parks, by giving the city substantial discounts.
“We’re very appreciative to have a generous company like Landscape Structures in town,” Kern said.
To learn more about Landscape Structures, go to www.playlsi.com.