Dustin's Adventureland secures state funding for all-inclusive playground

Christine Lee, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·3 min read

Apr. 27—MINERSVILLE — Dustin's Adventureland got a boost from the state to build a playground that children of all abilities can enjoy.

The nonprofit was awarded a $100,000 Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program grant by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an agency of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, for the all-inclusive playground.

Jeffrey Dunkel, Dustin's Adventureland board vice president, said the funding, which the organization learned it received last Wednesday, will be a "huge help."

"The playground will have a huge impact on the county for years to come," he said, adding it is the first of its kind in the county.

Dunkel said that, to receive the grant, the 13-member board needed to provide 15% matching funds for the project, which resulted in the raising of about $40,000.

Dustin's Adventureland, named for a Pottsville boy with autism, will consist of stairs, a rock climbing wall, sensory panels, slides, ramps and canopies. Smaller pieces, not part of the main structure, will include a swingset, zip line, sensory panels and standalone units. The entire playground will be built in a 9,000-square-foot space in the left field area of the Minersville Teener League complex off Fourth Street in Branch Township, which the organization is leasing from the borough.

"We've had the full support of both Minersville and Branch Township," Dunkel said.

He said the money will help with the playground's funding. Before the funding's announcement, Dunkel said $90,000 was raised by individuals and businesses, with an additional $12,000 from organizations and businesses. Board members hope to raise $300,000 for the playground, which is designed for children of all physical abilities.

Fundraising is still ongoing, with a Night at the Races planned for Saturday at the AMVETS Post 180 in Pottsville; a golf tournament June 26 at Mountain Valley Golf Course near Barnesville; a bike and motorcycle run July 17; a fall music festival Aug. 7; and the annual Chinese auction Nov. 13-14.

The board purchased the main structure from MRC Recreation last fall and it is anticipated to arrive in late summer. Dunkel said he expects construction will start late August or early September, and the playground will open by mid- to late September.

Dunkel said the nonprofit is still looking for sponsors for a few pieces of equipment and the fence that will surround the playground. The organization is also selling engraved pavers for its entrance and puzzle pieces that encircle its perimeter.

The funding was greeted positively by Minersville and state elected officials. Borough Manager Robert G. Mahalchick said Monday that he was happy to hear Dustin's Adventureland was awarded the grant.

"Borough council, the mayor, myself and our residents are proud to be the site of the county's only such park," he said. "The joy, smiles and laughter that will be experienced by those with special needs to all of us is priceless."

In a statement announcing the funding, state Rep. Tim Twardzik, R-123, Butler Township, said it will "offer a welcoming space for children with varying disabilities that may have otherwise been left out."

"I am delighted to see that Dustin's Adventureland will be moving forward with the help of this grant," he said.

State Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Township, said in a statement he was "pleased" the playground was selected for the funding.

"Supporting people with disabilities is very important to building a strong, healthy community," he said.

Contact the writer: clee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6028; @Cleespot on Twitter