PIERZ-American Legion Park, one block behind the Pierz City Hall, served as a popular gathering place for children for the better part of three decades before vandals damaged its playground and put its future in jeopardy.

As one of only four designated playground areas in the city, including the Pioneer Elementary School, the park is a fixture in the memories - and childhoods - of many. Kari Tyson, deputy clerk, said this particular playground is exceptionally popular with children who live on the west side of Highway 25 since the other playgrounds require them to cross the busy road.

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In late May, 2017, vandals punched a large hole in one of the two slides, making it unsafe and unusable. Tyson said Public Works Director Bob Otremba looked into having the slide replaced, but because of its age, that particular slide was no longer available - meaning the entire structure would need to be removed.

Not anticipating having to replace an entire playground structure, the city wasn't sure how it would afford a play system in the park with costs upwards of $25,000. Once it was determined the entire play installation had to be replaced, Tyson reached out to National Joint Powers Alliance for assistance.

"When Kari called me and explained the situation, I instantly felt inclined to help," said Anna Gruber, manager of city and county solution as National Joint Powers Alliance. "I knew NJPA had a playground contract they could utilize, but I also knew Pierz would need help in rallying together funds to support the new playground since it was an unexpected cost. We have multiple programs that could be used, so pooling them all together was a no-brainer."

All in all, by working with National Joint Powers Alliance, Pierz saved about $10,000.

Tyson said it was amazing to see the outpouring of community support when word spread that the playground was in peril. Civic organizations, including the American Legion, Knights of Columbus, and Lions, stepped up to make generous donations, as well as a contribution from Minnesota Power and insurance claim dollars.

During a phone interview, Tyson said area children are utilizing the new equipment with gusto and the community regard the playground with a mixture of pride and heightened vigilance. Pierz residents are keeping themselves aware when they're visiting the park and owners of neighboring properties are keeping tabs on the new facility.

"We thank everybody for their community support-whether it's financially or with the installation itself," Tyson added. "Everything ran very smoothly. We're happy with how it turned out."