Popular Burnsville playground set for replacement

This is a schematic of the new Burnsville Lions Playground in Cliff Fen Park. City of Burnsville graphic

Skyland, built 22 years ago, has been removed

Burnsville’s most popular playground, a corporate gift made to the city 22 years ago, is set to be replaced this spring with a new playground.

The city has set aside $250,000 to replace Skyland Playground, the wooden “castle” complex in Cliff Fen Park, with a new metal and plastic playground.

The Burnsville Lions Club has pledged another $50,000 for enhanced features.

The city’s Parks and Natural Resources Commission voted Monday to recommend the replacement and to call the new playground Burnsville Lions Playground. The City Council will consider the recommendation on Jan. 22.

Skyland Playground was built in 1990 by more than 1,000 employees of Skyline Displays and community volunteers. Skyline, a maker of trade show displays and portable exhibits, donated most of the construction materials for the $200,000 playground.

The company, now called Skyline Exhibits, has since moved its Burnsville location to Eagan. And the playground has exceeded its 20-year life expectancy by two years.

Located in the 40-acre Cliff Fen Park on Cliff Road just east of Nicollet Avenue, the playground was the city’s most popular, said Recreation Supervisor Garrett Beck, who’s heading the replacement project.

It made Cliff Fen a popular park for birthday parties and family reunions, with people reserving shelters so their kids could use the playground, Beck said.

Child-care centers and school groups would often stop by Cliff Fen — a destination site, not a neighborhood park — for playtime, he said.

Several times Skyland was named Dakota County’s best playground in readers choice awards sponsored by Thisweek Newspapers (now Sun Thisweek).

“It was an incredibly successful playground for us over the last 22 years,” Beck said.

But city crews tore it down this year as the wooden components continued to deteriorate, both above and below ground, Beck said. Bolts began pulling away from rotting wood.

“Over the last two years, our maintenance staff has had to remove pieces of equipment, replace pieces of equipment,” he said. “They’ve done a great job extending the life of it until we got to the point where we could replace it. It is gone now, and the reason it is gone is it simply could not have lasted any longer from a safety standpoint.”

The Skyline company has declined to contribute to a new playground. City Council deferral of annual contributions to a parks capital fund in recent tight budget years delayed the project back.

But $250,000 was budgeted for 2013. The city hired a consultant to solicit playground proposals. City staffers chose a plan by St. Croix Recreation/Burke Manufacturers.

The 6,800-square-foot play area includes more than 70 playground features, “which is far more than Skyland ever had,” Beck said. Features include slides, a rock wall, a climbing feature and a spinning feature, he said. Five “towers” are proposed within the complex, which is designed for children ages 2 to 12.

The $300,000 cost is less than the $450,000 to $500,000 it would have taken to build a new wooden playground, Beck said.

The $50,000 Lions Club contribution allows the park to have five towers instead of three, Beck said.

Club member Bill Johnson, a volunteer in the city’s Inspections Department, raised the idea of contributing to the playground, said Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, also a Lion.

“It’s a great thing because the Lions like to be involved in giving back to the community in areas where it enriches not only the lives of families, but kids,” the mayor said.

Work is to begin once weather allows and will take about 10 days, Beck said.