- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

PICKRELL, NEB. (AP) - When a group of concerned citizens first started discussing potential improvements to Pickrell Park, their plans were modest.

Improvements to the covered picnic area were on the top of the list, along with better playground equipment for the numerous kids who gather at the park on a regular basis.

Once the ball got rolling and more members of the community got involved, plans quickly escalated.

Today, a new structure with an enclosed area, and even television hookups, is nearly complete, reports The Beatrice Daily News (https://bit.ly/1FGUcz7 ).

Community member Ross Trauernich said grants played a key role in getting the project, and building, off the ground.



“We were just going to fix it and thought we’d apply for a grant,” he said “We applied for it and got the grant, but then all these other ideas came into place with this new one, so we wound up tearing down the old building and building this new one. One thing just led to another.”

The key contribution that allowed the dream to become a reality was a contribution from the Toro Foundation.

The Toro Company, the parent company of Exmark, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. To celebrate, Toro donated a $50,000 ‘legacy’ grant to every community which houses a Toro manufacturing plant or headquarters.

Of the money, $28,000 was awarded to the Pickrell Historical and Betterment Association to be used for improvements to the park.

Frequently used during the Pickrell Picnic, the previous building was 40 years old and lacked modern amenities, in addition to suffering hail damage.

Initially, the building at the park wasn’t going to have a restroom or kitchenette area.

“It was a conversation that got this all started and the town really stepped in to support it,” said Marilyn Schlake, secretary of the Pickrell Historical and Betterment Association. “People kept volunteering and bringing funds forward. Other organizations helped support it and it kept mushrooming.”

Schlake said more than 45 people have donated more than 1,000 hours to help with the park project, in addition to the Exmark volunteers who worked on equipment at the park in October.

Three pieces of large equipment, at a total cost of $10,000, and new lights, have also been installed.

While milestones have been made in the project and the new building and equipment are expected to be able-to-use by the Pickrell Picnic this summer, Pickrell Historical and Betterment Association member Sandy Meints said there’s still a long way to go before the park is complete.

“What you see here is paid for, now we have aspirations of getting more grant money,” she said. “And we need more community support to finish the kitchen, ceiling and do the landscaping.”

A pancake feed and silent auction have been held as fundraisers for the park, with a wine tasting event scheduled for March 28.

As of late January, an additional $33,000 was needed to finish the park.

Once the building is completed, a future project hopes to see the addition of a veterans’ memorial in the southwest corner of the park.

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Information from: Beatrice Sun, https://www.beatricedailysun.com

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