1 26 Bridgman Toth Park Donation

Julie Strating (from left, Community Growth Alliance Vice President & grant contributor), Sara Ball (Bridgman Director of Parks & Recreation), Jan Trapani (Bridgman Mayor), Mona Livingston (AEP Community Affairs Representative) and Juan Ganum (Bridgman City Manager & grant writer) at the Jan. 9 City Council meeting where the American Electric Power Foundation’s $75,000 grant for the Toth Street Park playscape project was presented.

BRIDGMAN — The playground at Bridgman’s Toth Street Park will receive a much needed facelift, thanks to a $75,000 grant awarded from the American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, upon the recommendation from Indiana Michigan Power (I&M).

The city is intentionally incorporating universal design standards with accessibility in mind for a new, sizable single playscape to replace two smaller, well-worn structures.

The catalyst for the entire project came from a group of local parents who frequent the playground with their children. Bridgman residents Jodi Bodtke, Amanda Dryden, Danielle Grandholm, Sandra Ehlert, Kella Koehler and Emily Nicka saw opportunities for improvement and approached City Hall with their ideas. Their vision included updating the playground equipment, ensuring the playscape design was accessible, and also creating space for parents to relax nearby as their children played.

“We have dreamed of updating Toth Park to better serve our community for over five years,” said Bodtke. “It is so exciting and encouraging to see our recommended changes come to life and we’re grateful for the people who have given their time, energy and resources toward this project.”

Inclusive designs have been evolving since federal accessibility guidelines in the 1990s. More recently, a bigger push by parents and advocates has amounted to an inclusive playground movement that allows able-bodied kids to play right alongside kids who have physical challenges.

“Our family is hopeful these updates lead to an inclusive space that brings families together in new ways that the park doesn’t currently allow,” added Grandholm.

I&M External Affairs Representative Mona Livingston presented a $75,000 check to the city at the Bridgman City Council meeting on January 9.

“Helping build an inclusive playground is a prime example of the AEP Foundation’s and Indiana Michigan Power’s commitment to making brighter futures together in the communities we serve,” said Livingston.

“This project is an opportunity to positively and directly affect the wellbeing of Bridgman’s smallest residents and their parents by providing a joyful space designed with accessibility in mind,” added Bridgman Mayor Jan Trapani. “We are grateful for the AEP Foundation’s generous support of this important initiative in our community.”

Toth Street Park offers 7 acres and includes large green space, basketball courts, a fenced-in dog park, a pavilion with bathrooms, a walking track, and cornhole boards.

“Our aim is for Toth Park to once again serve as a neighborhood and community gathering place that attracts, enlivens and delights families,” said Bridgman City Manager Juan Ganum

Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Sara Ball expects the new playscape installation to begin this summer/fall and anticipates completion by the spring of 2024.

American Electric Power Foundation

The American Electric Power Foundation is funded by American Electric Power and its utility operating units, including Indiana Michigan Power. The Foundation provides a permanent, ongoing resource for charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area. The Foundation’s areas of focus include special emphasis on improving lives through education from early childhood through higher education, protecting the environment, providing basic human services in the areas of hunger, housing, health and safety, and enriching life through art, music and cultural heritage. The Foundation is based in Columbus, Ohio.

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