This is the first of a two part #1 Franklin Story of 2016.

Sunday afternoon, October 9, 2016 was cool and crisp in Franklin.  But it might as well have been sunshine, blue skies, and 75 degrees at Franklin Woods, the home of Kayla’s Playground.

A group of just some of the many volunteers who worked on the all-inclusive playground turned out to mark the project’s first anniversary.

Unlike the tremendous celebration that took place at the Grand Opening there were no live television trucks.  No commemorative speeches. Simply warm reflections of fond memories, and a well-earned sense of gratification from an amazing community achievement.

Marquette University students Erin Neuhengen and Halle Gordon were there to capture the anniversary on video.

Tiffany Stoiber of
wrote a beautiful story about the anniversary. Here are some excerpts.

“It’s given a lot of children the opportunity to have a great time along with some of their other friends who have never been able to have such a good time,” Mayor Steve Olson said of Kayla’s Playground. “And it’s exposed a lot of people to the great things that Franklin has.”

The reunion was, as the construction of Kayla’s Playground was, an all-inclusive effort. Many individuals, groups and businesses sponsored different aspects of the event.

Sprecher and Sendik’s Fresh Market donated drinks, Arena Americas supplied a tent, Friends of Forest Home provided a shuttle bus to the park, and Thrivent Financial supported the action team. Thrivent also recently donated $10,000 toward continued maintenance of the park.

Afterward the reunion, volunteers took extra cookies to Franklin’s police and fire departments, “paying it forward” and saying thank you for the departments’ generosity of hosting a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for the playground early in the process.

In June 2016 the city of Franklin and Kayla’s Playground was the recipient of a 2016 Salute Award by the Public Policy Forum in the category of “Public-Private Cooperation.” From the Forum’s website:

Kayla’s Krew is a group of citizens who sought to build an all-inclusive playground in Franklin that would be accessible for all children and families of any age and ability. The effort was dedicated to the memory of Kayla Runte, a little girl with cerebral palsy who passed away at the age of eight. Collaborating with the City of Franklin and several additional public and private sector organizations – including the Franklin Public School District, Greendale Public School District, and Penfield Children’s Center – Kayla’s Krew organized a community-wide effort to build the playground. Kayla’s Playground was built in nine days with the assistance of almost 2,000 citizen and business volunteers who worked closely with paid and volunteer Franklin Department of Public Works and Engineering Department employees. The 12,000 square foot all-accessible and all-inclusive playground – housed at the City-owned Franklin Woods Nature Center – was completed in September.

Here is the city’s application submitted to the Public Policy Forum:

Public Policy Forum, 2016 Nomination for Public-Private Cooperation

  1. Evidence of teamwork between one or more public sector and private sector entities in addressing a mutual problem or improving performance in a specific service or program area.

The primary focus of Kayla’s Krew was inclusion for all abilities in their mission to build a Playground in the City of Franklin.  Many playgrounds in city parks have very limited accessibility and almost no inclusive components. Kayla’s Krew had committed to obtaining the most inclusive equipment on the market to include all abilities in the activities of play.  With inclusion at the center of their mission, it only seemed natural for Kayla’s Krew to team with many local public and private sector partners.  Kayla’s Krew had collaborated with many organizations including Penfield Children’s Center, the City of Franklin, Franklin Public School District, Greendale Public School district, MSOE Servant Leadership, Roundy’s Supermarkets and many other local businesses, schools, groups, organizations, and churches.  Whether it was through fundraising efforts or building the playground, there were many opportunities for private and public sector entities to work together for the common good of the community.

  1. Evidence of measurable success in implementing the cooperative approach.

Kayla’s Playground was built by the community in a total of 9 days with the assistance of  almost 2,000 citizen and business volunteers who worked hand in hand with paid and volunteer Department of Public Works employees.  Many private restaurants donated food to feed three shifts of volunteers per day.  MSOE Servant Leadership students designed and installed the Kayla’s Krew musical bridge and are currently working on designing the Sponsor and Donor Board and will install on-site when finished.  Dawes Crane donated a crane to place the roofs of the 5 treehouses on the playground.  Sunbelt Rental, Franklin High School, Harry’s ACE Hardware, Snap On Tools all generously donated tools and equipment.

Constructing this playground as a matter of municipal contracting would have taken months longer at a substantial (arguably prohibitive) cost.  Photo and video documentation of the tremendous team work are readily available both from the City of Franklin, news media and social media covering the positive efforts of the community build.

The 12,000 square foot all-accessible and all-inclusive playground was completed on September 27th, 2015 and a ribbon cutting ceremony was celebrated on October 9, 2015 with more than 1,000 citizens, children and public officials in attendance.  As a testament to the inclusiveness of the project numerous instances of the interaction of all abilities sharing playground equipment are documented in photos and videos.  At many points at the ceremony and regularly since, children in wheelchairs line up to use the only wheelchair accessible swing, the Liberty Swing, offered in Milwaukee and Waukesha County.  This special piece of equipment is manufactured in Australia and does not require the user to get out of the wheelchair to swing.  Some other inclusive components include the accessible Merry-Go-Round, Stainless Steel Slides and wide accessible ramps and rubberized PIP (Poured in Place) Surfacing. Visitors to the playground come from all nearby communities even in the winter as well as in increasing numbers this spring.  Volunteers routinely visit the playground and take time to make sure the area is neat and clean by assisting Franklin Public Works employees in the routine care of the playground and park located at Franklin Woods Nature Center (3723 W Puetz Rd, Franklin, WI)

The City of Franklin provided labor assistance through the Engineering Department (acting as project management and general contractor) and the Department of Public Works (equipment, operators, technical support and logistics).  It’s important to note that with the support of the Franklin Common Council and city employees volunteered their time to work on the project.  Citizens worked alongside the mayor, elected officials, fire and police chief, DPW, planners, secretaries, police officers and fire fighters.  Many of these people, while their daily roles are to serve and protect the City of Franklin and its citizens, the build created an opportunity for each of them to work together with many citizens for the greater good of the community.

Lessons learned that may be relevant for other governments seeking to establish public-private partnerships.

From an elected officials perspective, we elected need to recognize the desires and talents of our community members and work with them to enable and encourage the dreams and projects that they bring to us.  We need to find a way to say “yes.”  All too often we wrap ourselves in our rules and ordinances.  This project is a testament to creativity, flexibility and patience

This is a public/private community building program to provide one aspect of life improving facilities that can teach, treat and provide a safe and fun recreational environment for everyone in the community, regardless of their physical ability.  The project went far beyond meeting “ADA Requirements” in including all abilities in play, but also in the design of the restrooms provided  This is certainly a project that would not have been generated by a municipality on its’ own.

The biggest lesson to be learned is that the community will respond and work together for a great cause.  Franklin is a much closer community today than it was a year ago because of this project.

Franklin worked with the City of Kenosha while they were building their “Dream Playground” just ahead of Franklin.  Together the communities shared tools, material, expertise and experience to improve both projects.  Today, the City of Franklin has offered assistance to the City of New Berlin along with Kayla’s Krew and will be assisting New Berlin in construction of their all-inclusive, all-accessible playground at Malone Park


Kayla’s Playground was selected as the best park in the Milwaukee area.

And in November, more terrific news!

Finally, as reported:

Kayla’s Playground isn’t done yet. Officials hope it will continue to become even more inclusive.

“We’ve got a fund set up to continue to enhance the playground, so it will evolve as playground technology evolves,” Olson said.



2 thoughts on “THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016: #1, Part 1

  1. Pingback: THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016: #1, Part 2 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

  2. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (01/09/17) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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