Senior project aims to grow the future of winter park activities

Wessington Springs High School student Brendin LaBore set his sights high when searching for the subject for his senior project, in fact, he specifically looked for something that will have a lasting effect on the community he calls home. 

Wessington Springs Area Chamber & Development (WSACD) Director Loree Gaikowski heard about LaBore’s community-minded senior project goals and reached out to him. She asked if he wanted to incorporate his project around the development of “Winter Park Activities” — a movement to continue growing the city park as an outdoor winter recreation destination.  

“After participating in a meeting with a community event planner, I knew I wanted to do presentations in the elementary school to ask the kids what they’d like to see at the park,” LaBore said. 

Since being awarded a $10,000 South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) Community Innovation Grant (CIG), WSACD sought community input regarding the future of Winter Park Activities. And LaBore’s outreach to area youth brought the voice of the winter park’s primary users, kids, to the table. 

“I asked second through sixth graders to put their ideas on sticky notes on a board, and asked the kindergarten and first grade students to draw pictures of what they wanted for winter activities,” LaBore said. “Some of what they came up with was pretty funny — but there was one replay that spoke to me most. One student said he had always wanted to go sledding but he couldn’t because he didn’t have a sled.” 

In addition to building an inventory of sleds free for use, a well as ice skates, kids came up with ideas such as a railing around the seating rink, handles for the tow rope and an expansion of the sledding hill.

“Talking to the kids, they thought it would be cool to have winter weekends with planned activities like snowman-building contests and an area dedicated just for snow forts,” LaBore said. 

WSACD director Loree Gaikowski said that the funds will be utilized for two main objectives: an engineering study on the ice skating pond to help alleviate water issues and create consistency on the ice; and to create opportunities that engage the community and solicit input about future growth of “Winter Park Activities.”

“Brendin gave the elementary kids a voice,” Gaikowski said. “From here, we take those ideas to an engineer to see which ones are plausible to improve the park.”

LaBore emphasized that in addition to letting area youth have a say in the future of the park, it’s also about increasing commerce and growing the community.

“We let the youth’s voice be heard,” LaBore said. “All of us are working together to make this community a better place.”