By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Larned Splash Pad work to start
April 1 start No Fooling!
Larned's Doerr-Vernon Park

LARNED — Larned Pride organized two years ago, a collaboration with the Kansas State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The group has launched a community garden and orchard, a farmer’s market and a community roller-skating program.
But Larned Pride members had a big dream.
“We wanted to tackle a larger project that would truly change the face of our community,” said Angie Murray, Larned Pride member.
The idea to do a park project came from a survey the group conducted during a community-wide assessment. After careful research, it was determined that a Splash Pad was perfectly suited for the Kansas Department of Commerce Small Communities Improvement Program grant that requires 40 percent of the project be donated labor and equipment.
The $125,000 grant will pay for materials. The playground facilities at Doerr-Vernon Park will be demolished and the park will be transformed into a Splash Pad featuring a Fort Larned Frontier theme.
No fooling — the work starts April 1.
Larned USD 495 students and staff will donate their day Friday with Demolition Day, removal of all equipment in the park. Larned Assembly of God is donating lunch. Group leaders Justin Hammond, Shane Guthrie and Jason Toll will direct work crews.
“It’s been an eye-opener to see what can happen in a small community,” Murray said. “We’ve gotten amazing support from everyone we’ve asked. The local community sees our vision.”
The first task Pride members performed was gauging volunteer support by meeting with clubs, organizations, churches and schools.
“The response was overwhelming,” Murray said. “As we neared the grant deadline, Pride members spent hours finalizing commitments and acquiring letters of support. The final piece was typing page numbers on each grant page to correspond with a table of contents.  With 212 pages complete and three copies in the mail, the waiting began.”
In January, Murray received the good news.
“I received the call that we received the largest award,” she said. “Word travels quickly in a small town and with Pride’s Facebook page, the word was out and work began.”
Murray has been overjoyed by the local response.
Mark and Sarah Johnson established a fundraising campaign in memory of their daughter, Natalie.  The covered wagon slide on the Splash Pad will be called, “Natalie’s Wagon.”
Murray said the project has received several major contributions — Larned Tourism, $10,000; Golden Belt Community Foundation, $5,000; and Larned State Theater, $5,000.
“How awesome that our local theater is community-owned and doing so well that they can help another local project succeed,” Murray said.
Some of the help has come out of nowhere.
“Hutton Construction of Wichita found out we received the grant and offered their services on a eight-foot walking trail,” Murray said. “They will send 12 skilled craftsman and six office staff. They will work with our local concrete company, Eakin Construction, which is also donating its time.”
Two Extreme Work Weekends are planned April 8-10 and April 30-May 1. The Hutton crews will be assisted by The Larned Chamber Ambassadors, who will provide more than 50 employees April 9-10. Both Extreme Weekend work weekends include meals provided from area churches and free day-care will be offered from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Work schedules are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Murray said residents are invited to work side-by-side with local contractors, plumbers and electricians April 8-10 and April 30-May 1.
Murray said city of Larned staff, Chad Eakin and Eakin Construction and Jason Gillig, representing Hutton Construction of Wichita, have been major contributors.
“It’s been amazing to see the amount of time they have been willing to give to planning each piece of the park,” she said. “Tim Schaller, our local architect, worked with Larned Pride and designed the blueprint free of charge. The plumbing has been a considerable project to lay out.”
The Fort Play Structure, which spans over 30-by-40 feet, has started at the Vocational Training Program at the Larned State Hospital. The pieces they pre-fab will be brought in on April 8 as volunteers begin to assemble this play piece.
New play equipment has been purchased to replace existing pieces and a mural is planned for the bathroom completed by the Larned High art students.
Bricks are selling for $35 each. Benches contain a paragraph of a family’s ties or memory of a special loved one and can be purchased for $1,000. With more than $90,000 in volunteer labor to accumulate, Murray said the true work begins when volunteers sign up for projects during the Extreme Work Weekends.
“Everything is frontier-themed and we have been working with Fort Larned Historical site employees to integrate pieces of the Fort’s history into the park,” she said. “Completing this theme will include a scavenger hunt with six clues around the park ending with the seventh clue taking families out to Fort Larned.”
Larned Pride is a community-initiated effort that helps local leaders manage change through a hands-on approach to community self-improvement. The program helps with planning, community services and community enrichment. Officials from the Department of Commerce and K-State Research and Extension direct the program.

Larned doerr park