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Youth leadership group starts East Park Prairie Playground renovation project

MASON CITY — The Youth Investing Energy in Leadership Development group has started renovation work on the Prairie Playground in Mason City’s East Park.

The high school juniors from Mason City High School and Newman Catholic High School chose this project as they are passionate about restoring a place where they grew up playing and want it to be available for future generations to enjoy. After meeting with city staff last fall, YIELD students solicited donations to cover project expenses which included replacement and repairs to old equipment, the addition of engineered wood mulch, and stain for the entire structure.

Makenna Hansen of Mason City High says lots of children use the Prairie Playground each year and it needed some sprucing up.  “We all love East Park and it’s a huge part of all of our childhoods, and this is the place for a lot of Mason City kids. We felt like that was something all the city could relate to. We knew that it needed some things to be fixed up and that was important to us as a group just because it’s such an important place.”

Hansen says raising the funds for the project was part of the learning process for the group.  “That was a huge part of it, just asking around, businesses, help from the city, and we got more than enough, so we’re really grateful for that.”

Eli Brinkley of Newman says the engineered wood mulch being placed around the playground area will make it safer for kids.  “It’s important that we are able to have our youth play in a safer environment. The most we were able to buy was a little bit better engineered. It cushions falls better. It’s a little better, higher quality than we had before, and significantly reduces the risks of wood burns and wood chips that you would get from  falling or scraping your hand on a side rail, that kind of thing.”

Brinkley says the Prairie Playground is an important part of the community.  “This place means a lot to all of us, and we think it means a lot to Mason City, so to come back and kind of fix it up a little bit, make it look a little better, it’s a spot of pride for us to be able to look at and say ‘here’s what we did, we gave back to the community, and also our community has this’. This is a nice place for our youth to come and hang out and to play.”

The YIELD program originated in 2003 through the Mason City Chamber of Commerce to provide leadership training to local high school youth, and now serves as a model for other communities. 

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