New playground structure

Forest Lake's $38,000 new playground structure underway by local firm Themed Concepts will look very similar to this one when finished.

FOREST LAKE — The city is on task to get a major new playground attraction local officials believe will attract young families from around the region.

A $38,000 dragon-shaped play structure being built by Forest Lake-based Themed Concepts is set to be installed in Cedar Park (at the intersection of

Second Avenue NW and Seventh Street NW, but visible from Broadway Avenue) this spring. The feature is expected to rival Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater in originality, scope and just plain fun, according to Park and Recreation coordinator Nicole Schossow.

"We fought over which park it should go in," she said. "We're thrilled to have it in the area."

The idea came from Themed Concepts, which offered the feature at a huge discount as a gift to the community. Schossow said the winged dragon will be visible from Broadway Avenue and should be a "destination place" that will draw people to area restaurants and stores.

Already being considered is a parade ushering in the dragon to its new location since it will be quite a spectacle while transported. The piece has a metal frame and is surrounded by fiber-reinforced concrete; it will be installed on a cement pad already installed in Cedar Park.

Funding is expected to come from future parks dedication fees, largely coming from taxes on new homes planned near the new Lakes International Language Academy building near Fenway Avenue. After discussion at the City Council level Nov. 24 wherein the Parks Board was directed to be more careful about spending funds that are only projected, the council agreed to fund the project until park dedication funds roll in, if need be.

Schossow and Parks Board Chairwoman Karen Morehead don't see that as a problem, since Themed Concepts has given Forest Lake until at least 10 months to finalize payment. The company also donated installation, transport and a lifetime service warranty for the structure, which is worth at least $125,000 at the retail level according to Schossow.

The Forest Lake Rotary Club has already stepped forward to help with some funding, Morehead said, and other area sponsors will be sought as well.

"Maybe people in the area will want to get their name on it," she speculated.

She credited Schossow's people skills for helping the project come to fruition.

"It's her ability to create partnerships and deal with people," she said.

Outdated metal play equipment at Cedar Park that has been deemed unsafe is slated for removal. Residents in the surrounding neighborhood were polled about what they'd like at the park and responded they wished for attractions for all ages groups and a play area with some distance from roadways.

Schossow said the size and scope of the dragon has grown since its original conception, but Themed Concepts has not raised the price accordingly. She's not sure of its final size but noted it fits into a 20- by 30-foot space.

The green and brown hand-painted dragon is all one piece and allows kids to walk through its mouth, play on interior nets and slide down its tail.

Schossow said the piece will likely be enjoyed by even older kids.

"When we were (at Themed Concepts) , staff was playing on it, and they were in their late 20s and early 30s," she noted. "I can tell you I'm going to be playing on it."

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