Reimagining the Station
November 28, 2018
As young children scream, shout, and squirm through the newly-constructed Reimagination Station, Reimagine Co-Chair, Kristi Streng, cannot help but smile as she looks upon the topsi-turviness that has descended upon the station.
Back in the fall of 2017, the City of Grand Haven came to Chris and Kristi Streng asking them if they would like to work to replace the former Imagination Station with a newly built one. Reluctantly they agreed, but wanted to build it 100% American’s with Disabilities (ADA) compliant.
“We agreed to chairing [the fundraising campaign] if we were going to raise the extra funds and make it ADA compliant, which the community was 100% behind,” Streng said. “Nobody wants to take out the Imagination Station for just an ordinary playground.”
The Strengs did just that. Once they had agreed, they put together a committee of people to help them reach their goal of $500,000, and they were on their way.
“We asked people we knew that would be interested and invested,” Streng said. “You’ve got to have people who can see it through to the end … people who have a passion for it.”
Once they committed to the project and wrangled some volunteers, the Strengs still needed someone to design the structure, so where did they turn to for designs? Of course to the kids who will be using the playground. Elementary students across the district were hand-selected to brainstorm designs that were pitched at a community viewing event on Oct. 7, 2017. The playground company, Leather’s & Associates, then went to work incorporating the designs into the final structure.
“It was pretty cool to see it through [the kid’s] imaginations,” Streng said. “They were able to tell people what exactly that straw was on their design, or what it looks like.”
Post-fundraising, the committee set a build week, Oct. 9-14, during which they were going to build the Station entirely from community volunteers.
“We hit three Michigan seasons in three days,” Streng said. “And people still showed up, that’s what was incredible. [They] showed up in a huge way, and this would not have happened if we were the only ones out there trying to build it.”
The Reimagination Station 2.0 was officially opened to the public at a grand opening ceremony on Nov. 1 at 5:00 p.m. Streng says this was the highlight of the nearly year-long journey for her as Co-Chair.
“It was exhilarating to see [the kids] rush in and be excited,” Streng said. “I walked through and could hear kids say ‘hey! I helped design that! Look, there it is!’”
Friday morning after the grand opening, Streng said she visited the site to check in on and see how things were going.
“I watched two harbor transit buses pull up with special needs kids from White Pines,” Streng said. “And the moment that it really hit me was when I looked over at the merry-go-round, and I saw two kids in wheelchairs, one child that was blind, and three or four kids ran onto the merry-go-round to play with them, and they were all laughing together.”