2014-2017 CLUB PROJECT:
Installed at the Waterfront in 2016!
The Bemidji Rotary Club has committed to raising funds to support the construction of this universally accessible playground for all ages and abilities to enjoy at the Bemidji waterfront.
With renovations at the Bemidji Waterfront in 2015, the Bemidji Rotary Club seized the opportunity to enhance the playground experience for all people to enjoy. A children's play area is part of the renovation plan. The City of Bemidji had money budgeted for this play area, and will apply the budgeted funds to the enhanced Paul Bunyan Inclusive Playground.

Bemidji Rotarians and local government officials broke ground for the $440,000 project on May 19. Building of the playground took place the weekend of June 16-19th 2016 and the playground was opened to the public in July. The Bemidji Rotary Club has committed to raising funds, with rallied support from the community, to support the construction of this universally accessible playground for all ages and abilities to enjoy at the Bemidji waterfront. An official Grand-Opening will take place on September 17th during the Worldwide Day of Play. 


There are still a few funds left to raise to complete this project initiative.

Show your support! To make a tax-deductible donation, simply mail your contribution, payable to Bemidji Rotary Foundation, memo: Inclusive Playground, and send it to: NW MN Foundation, Attn: Rotary's PB Inclusive Playground, 201 3rd Street NW, Bemidji, MN 56601. Online donations are also accepted through the NW MN Foundation. Simply click here to donate online.

The playground, with a northwoods theme, will have a rubberized surfacing so children of all abilities can access and enjoy the play equipment, which will include ramps, slides and climbing apparati. There will be molded, high-back swings with harnesses and a high-back "omni spinner" with transfer points for children who use wheelchairs and walkers. Sensory-rich elements also will provide activities for those with developmental disabilities.


"Unless you are a parent holding the child left out, you may not not notice the challenges these children face," said Elizabeth Engum, whose daughter has cerebral palsy, in a press release from the Bemidji Rotary Club. "Unfortunately, when others are accessing playground equipment, those with special needs are forced to sit out. While they are sitting out, able-bodied children are also missing out on the opportunity to gain understanding, appreciation and acceptance of others who may be different from themselves."


"I don't know if I can put into words how excited I am about this," said Courtney Aiken Gifford, who had been leading the project, in the release. "It's exciting for everyone in the community."


The Bemidji Rotary Club has long had a tradition of supporting playground development in Bemidji, having funded and/or assembled those at parks such as Lehmann, Cameron and at the Village of Hope. Rotary also funded and assembled the existing playground located at the waterfront.


The inclusive playground project started in 2011, when city staff heard from area residents that a universally accessible playground was truly desired, said Marcia Larson, the city's parks and recreation director. Bemidji then partnered with Shane's Inspiration, a California-based organization that helps plan and develop such playgrounds, which sent staff here to lead a community meeting that led to the preliminary design for the playground.


"The Rotary Club, especially the inclusive playground committee, they've been really great," said Larson, the parks director. "... They've really stepped up and committed completely to getting this funded. What they've done in a fairly short amount of time has been amazing."


The Bemidji Rotary Club has had a strong connection to the Paul Bunyan Park, where the new playground will be located, expected in 2016. It was Rotary club members who first created Paul and Babe nearly eight decades ago, and the club also funded and constructed the Rotary Pavilion.


The waterfront is the first stop for thousands of annual visitors to Bemidji. Adding an inclusive playground to the renovated Paul Bunyan Park provides a great first impression to those visitors and allows them to meet our community face-to-face. It really says our community cares about people of all abilities, that we are striving to be inclusive.



Together, We Are Able®: Shane’s Inspiration’s unique education program is designed to promote integration and understanding by bringing children with and without disabilities together in a meaningful way. Through this program, we combine in-class ability awareness workshops with interactive field trips to our inclusive playgrounds – giving children a hands-on opportunity to learn from and with their peers with disabilities. Our school resources include a standards-based academic curriculum, professional development, and parent workshops that communicate the benefits of social inclusion and how to support it.


Social Inclusion Education Program: Shane’s Inspiration’s School Inclusion program provides teachers with the tools to deliver Together, We Are Able via instructional guides, a DVD, and a standards-based curriculum that offers an integrated thematic unit on social inclusion. Combined with the parent and staff workshops, this tool box provides a powerful tool that helps fill key character education goals and combat bullying by promoting compassion.


Some of the equipment installed:
Be a Project Partner:
This project requires partners to come together from all across the community, to support the Paul Bunyan Inclusive Playground. The Bemidji Rotary Club sincerely welcomes you to join us in bringing this project to the Bemidji Waterfront.
Thank you to the following partners:
Bemidji Sunrise Rotary Club
City of Bemidji Parks and Trails
Beltrami County
Kraus Anderson
Ruth Edevold Endowment for Excellence
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Bemidji Sertoma Club
Homebuilders Association
MN Department of Natural Resources Employees
Neilson Foundation
Bemidji Jaycees
Rotary District 5580