Playgrounds Getting Attention and Adopted; New One Planned for School
Updated: May 3, 2019
By Joe Morey
Several young men from an LCO program aimed at improving the lives of young Native men cleaned up garbage and broken glass, and removed graffiti at the Drytown Community playground. The men worked to clean up the park in conjunction with LCO Volunteer firefighters Bonnie Corbin and Jason Martin, Sr.
Corbin said the LCO Fire Department put in a proposal to the LCO Tribal Governing Board to “Adopt” the playground. She said members of the fire department would regularly visit the park, keep it clean, and the moment they saw graffiti they would remove it.
Corbin said they may put chains on the two entry ways into the park to prevent people from hanging out at the park in the overnight hours. The gates would be locked at a certain time in the evening and then be reopened in the morning.
Neighbor to the park, Alex LaSieur, said there is no lighting at the park and he believes if there were chains on the gates, it would work to discourage kids and young adults from going in there.
“They wouldn’t climb over the fence because if police pulled up, they would be caught inside the fence,” LaSieur said.
Currently, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School is getting a new playground. The LCO TGB approved committing $200,000 to the playground from the Community Investment account that was created from the new contract renewal with Cane Bay Partners and LCO Financial Services. The LCO School is committing another $60,000.
LCO Development will be tearing down the current school playground and placing it in two other locations. The LCO Tribal Government said it’s considering New Post and Skunawong to each have a playground from the current school equipment.
Jessica “Hutch” Hutchinson, the LCO School Director, said as soon as the road bans are lifted, the work on the new playground would begin. “It would take about a month for LCO Development to get the equipment up and moved.”
The goal is to have park in by mid-June and landscaping all completed before Honor the Earth in mid-July, Hutch noted.
“Not only does the school use the playground, but so does the Boys and Girls Club and the community uses it in the off-school hours and in the summer,” Hutch said.
Corbin said Arnold Crone, manager of the LCO Country Store, is considering “Adopting” the park at Akikiindaag community, and two other local organizations would be asked to “Adopt” the New Post and Skunawong parks.
The guys who helped clean up the Drytown park included Devin Villebrun, Chris Melby and Zach Handl from the Gwayako Bimaadiziwin program, or Living the Right Kind of Life, a new program at Lac Courte Oreilles that focuses on improving the lives of young Native men through learning their cultural identity and traditions.
The program started with a three-year grant in the amount of $260,342, through the Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (ILEAD).
Luanne Kolumbus, director of the program, explained the initiative as a strengths-based program to improve the lives of young men by strengthening Ojibwe identity and resiliency.
The program aims to connect 25 young men with their cultural traditions through seasonal subsistence activities and also address unresolved trauma through trauma-informed group therapy.
“Each of the guys has created a Life Plan where they write down where they want to go in life, or what is their current state of being,” Kolumbus said. “It’s a big part of the program and was a requirement of the grant.”
Kolumbus said that part of the Life Plan is they learn employment skills, independent living skills, and they are taught to be respectful.
Jason Martin also works with Kolumbus, and she said he is a mentor to the guys.
“They depend on Jason a lot. When they have troubles they know they can talk to him, sometimes for hours,” Kolumbus said. “Some of the guys have even volunteered to join the LCO Fire Department and are going through training.”
Martin is the assistant chief at the fire department.
Photos by Joe Morey, News Editor