Region Five Development Commission received a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation to work with 6 communities within the five-county region. This led to the formation of the Welcoming Community Advocacy Groups, who met every quarter, spending 1 ½ years together, to talk about ways to help create welcoming spaces, processes, and initiatives within themselves, the organizations they serve, and the communities they live in. Each community was given a $10,000 grant to produce a project or program that would exemplify how the community is creating a welcoming place. Harmony Park was the project that the Long Prairie Welcoming Advocacy Group chose. This proved to be an ideal project because it paved the way for the Long Prairie Group to promote “harmony” within our diverse community, to be in “harmony” with nature and the environment, and to encourage “harmony by” integrating the elements of health and wellness in the lives of the residents of the community.
HARMONY PARK: A GATHERING PLACE FOR LONG PRAIRIE RESIDENTS AND VISITORS
In the initial planning process, the group looked for a project that would establish a gathering place for Long Prairie residents and visitors. It did not have to look very far. Harmony Park has always been there - it just needed a “new look”. Its location in the center of the town boasted of good accessibility, with off-street parking available. A pond and a walking path connect to a bike trail and are adjacent to the community gardens. An earlier mosaic art project involving students was done at the park years ago and it is currently a gathering place for soccer games - very near the high school football field and track so people are familiar with the location.
The goal was to better utilize the existing park with improved desirability for use by all age groups. Fifty new trees and shrubs have been planted to beautify the environment. A pavilion (shelter) will be built before the summer ends, and picnic tables will be added to allow for social interaction. In the future, “kid-friendly” games and activities to encourage physical exercise will be supplied, and a free library will be offered to inspire intellectual activity.
HARMONY PARK: A GREAT LOCATION FOR COMMUNITY EVENTS AND GATHERINGS
Local planners, suppliers, contractors, and community volunteers have come together to create a sense of “ownership” of the project. The expertise of a local arborist, botanist, and naturalist has also been adopted to illustrate the fact that the project is FOR the people of Long Prairie, and BY the people of Long Prairie. Opportunities have also been made available for the community to make donations towards the project in general, which includes purchasing trees, shrubs, and other plants and assisting with the cost of the pavilion and picnic benches. This financial support will enhance the beauty of Harmony Park for the people.
So far donations of nearly $5200 have been received from local organizations and individuals. The Group hopes that additional donations of around $2000 will be forthcoming when progress at the site becomes evident.
Dawn Espe, R5DC & NCEDA Equitable Development Specialist, hopes that Harmony Park will emerge as a gathering place for community members where children can play and exercise and adults can walk, relax and socialize and all members of our diverse community will feel welcome. “Looking forward, we have visions of the park being a future location for concerts, sporting events, and other community gatherings. We also hope that as residents see the progress made on this project, it will inspire future community improvement projects that enhance the quality of life in Long Prairie”, Dawn says.