A splashing success: Deerwood celebrates the city’s new splash pad

Kaleb Nelson peers out through the curtain of water being sprayed by one of the water features Friday, July 19, before the ribbon cutting at the new splash pad at the Deerwood Park playground. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

In a city with a population slightly higher than Brainerd High School’s most recent graduating class, a decade of community collaboration is making a big splash.

That’s what Mayor Mike Aulie told those attending the grand opening of Deerwood’s splash pad, the latest addition to a city park that’s undergone a transformation. As children laughed and splashed nearby Friday, July 19, Aulie shared the moments in the past 10 years that led to today: first, new playground equipment; then, a pavilion; now, a splash pad.

It’s a project that gained support from local and statewide funders, including the Hallett Charitable Trusts and the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation. But it’s the overall community support Aulie finds most inspiring.

“Almost every business in town have helped contribute to this,” Aulie said. “When you think of a town with 530 people, to put together a park like this without using any taxpayer dollars, to me that’s really an amazing story. To date, we’ve had over a quarter of a million dollars put into this park.”

Aulie said when the idea for the revamped park was in its infancy, the fundraising goal of about $55,000 seemed daunting. Then, he got a phone call that would be the first of many encouraging moments representing community support: the Bowman family, owners of Deerwood-based Magnum Machining, offered $25,000 in matching funds.


From there, too many people to list have contributed their time and dollars toward a dream to offer a destination for lakes area families, Aulie said.

First opening over the Fourth of July, the free splash pad has seen tremendous use, according to the mayor. And it’s generating positive side effects: those from the nearby Dollar General store said they’ve seen a spike in business as children and their parents make purchases of snacks to enjoy during breaks from the water-fueled fun.

“There have been kids up here nonstop and nothing but positive comments on it,” Aulie said. “... The water is 65 degrees, so on a hot day it’s really refreshing. The kids don’t seem to mind the temperature.”

A drinking fountain and water bottle-filling station is attractive to bicyclists in the area as well, he said, adding he just learned of the impending paving of the bike trail that winds through the city.

While the splash pad dream has been achieved, it isn’t stopping there. Aulie said fundraising efforts will continue, supporting the eventual addition of a public restroom at the site, additional playground equipment such as swings and the potential expansion of the splash pad.

“It’s amazing to see how the community has pulled together on this,” Aulie said. “...I’m so proud to be the mayor of this community.”


Deerwood Splash Pad Gallery

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