Bridgman Playground Gets $75k Boost from AEP Foundation Grant

The playground at Bridgman’s Toth Street Park will receive a much needed

facelift, thanks to a $75,000 grant awarded from the American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, upon

the recommendation from Indiana Michigan Power (I&M). The city is intentionally incorporating

universal design standards with accessibility in mind for a new, sizable single playscape to replace two

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smaller, well-worn structures.

The catalyst for the entire project came from a group of local parents who frequent the playground with

their children. Bridgman residents Jodi Bodtke, Amanda Dryden, Danielle Grandholm, Sandra Ehlert,

Kella Koehler and Emily Nicka saw opportunities for improvement and approached City Hall with their

ideas. Their vision included updating the playground equipment, ensuring the playscape design was

accessible, and also creating space for parents to relax nearby as their children played.

“We have dreamed of updating Toth Park to better serve our community for over five years,” said Jodi

Bodtke, Bridgman resident and parent contributor. “It is so exciting and encouraging to see our

recommended changes come to life and we’re grateful for the people who have given their time, energy

and resources toward this project.”

Inclusive designs have been evolving since federal accessibility guidelines in the 1990s. More recently, a

bigger push by parents and advocates has amounted to an inclusive playground movement that allows

able-bodied kids to play right alongside kids who have physical challenges.

“Our family is hopeful these updates lead to an inclusive space that brings families together in new ways

that the park doesn’t currently allow.” added Bridgman resident and parent contributor, Danielle

Grandholm.

I&M External Affairs Representative Mona Livingston presented the $75,000 check to the city at the

Bridgman City Council meeting on January 9. “Helping build an inclusive playground is a prime example

of the AEP Foundation’s and Indiana Michigan Power’s commitment to making brighter futures together

in the communities we serve,” said Livingston.

“This project is an opportunity to positively and directly affect the wellbeing of Bridgman’s smallest

residents and their parents by providing a joyful space designed with accessibility in mind,” added

Bridgman Mayor Jan Trapani. “We are grateful for the AEP Foundation’s generous support of this

important initiative in our community.”

Toth Street Park offers 7 acres and includes large green space, basketball courts, a fenced-in dog park, a

pavilion with bathrooms, a walking track, and cornhole boards.

“Our aim is for Toth Park to once again serve as a neighborhood and community gathering place that

attracts, enlivens and delights families,” said Juan Ganum, Bridgman city manager.

Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Sara Ball expects the new playscape installation to begin this

summer/fall and anticipates completion by spring 2024.