It’s been over three years since a group of Ball Club youth came together with the support of their community, to build a new park for area kids to play in and for the community to enjoy.
They’ve worked alongside the Ball Club Local Indian Council, an area group called the Circle of Healing and a playground project manager.
The park they envisioned, designed, and planned, was set for a grand opening early July but, like many projects during this time, it’s been delayed.
However, the effort to build the park – that centers culture and inclusion – is still going as strong as ever.
“It started three years ago and we started having these meetings called Circles of Healing meetings, and we just started off with the drawings and what we want to do the park to look like and the main shape, we started looking through catalogs of equipment and putting it and choosing equipment to go in there,” said Taylor O’Shea.
Taylor O’Shea and her friends Krissalyn Dahl, and Teona Bibeau are 13/14 year-olds who’ve been friends for years and have also shared in helping bring the dream of a new park to life for their community in Ball Club.
These three friends are a part of a community of people who helped brainstorm and design the up and coming Ball Club Park. Three things come to mind when I hear them speak: Community, Culture, and Friendship.
In early June, work began on the park grounds, and Teona Bibeau and friends were ready to talk.
“We just had groundbreaking a few days ago where we blessed the area that the parks going to go and just for like a smooth, like put together and everything and now it’s happening and they got the cement down and we got the equipment. So I’m very excited,” said Teona Bibeau.
They all agree the old park needed to go.
“There was three really old pieces of equipment. The park wasn’t fun growing up because it could be really fun if you had the right imagination,” said Krissalyn Dahl, “there was like graffiti on it and stuff like that. There was a broken swing.”
But for the three friends, there’s not much focus on the newness, but instead the meaning behind it.
“We want to put a lot of Ojibwe into the park, like the language itself, just so like kids can learn while they’re playing because like we’re having fun, but at the same time you want to teach them about their culture,” said Dahl.
And culture is foundational and is represented in the design. Artist Wesley May, citizen of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, has been working with the youth to create meaningful imagery, including a seven teachings mural.
Another touchstone to the park is that when you look at the park from above the whole layout takes the shape of a Mikinaak, or “turtle.”
“A lot of the things that we chose had a certain significance to our culture. So for example, the park is actually in the shape of a turtle, which in our culture means like represents wisdom and in a certain story the turtle actually sacrifices himself so that the earth can rest upon his back. So it’s kind of like symbolizing that in a way,” said Dahl
Included in the park is playground equipment, a basketball court, picnic pavilion, fire pit and chill spot. But one aspect sticks out.
“I think one thing that really like it makes me happy about the park is that it’s accessible for Taylor, because Taylor and Krissalyn one of my best friends. I think it’s awesome,” said Teona Bibeau.
While talking to the group, I can hear that their friendship is part of what helped design the park. They’ve been determined to make sure the park is built for everyone. So while adding items to the list, they’ve made sure the picnic tables, pathways, and playground equipment are accessible.
“I’m in a wheelchair and they’re going to have it’s something called a We-Go-Round and it’s like a Merry-Go-Round, but you can pull your wheelchair up on it and then you just park your wheelchair and you can go around on the wheel, go around. And instead of like wood chips or sand, we’re going to have like squishy kind of terrain. So you don’t get stuck. So yeah, it’s for all abilities and ages and it’s going to be really exciting,” said Taylor O’Shea.
When everyone can have fun, it just makes it more fun for all.
“It’s special to me for you much. Cause like the accessibility and I’ll be able to go on it with my little cousins if I’m watching them and my little cousins and Krissalyn and Teona. And so it’ll just be a really great experience.” Said O’Shea
Photos and updates can be found on the group’s fundraising site.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.