La Crosse Dedicates Lee A. Allen Playground
Springbrook Park in La Crosse Dedicates
Lee A. Allen Playground
When the 40-year-old ash trees were overcome with ash bore across the street from the home of Lee and Janet Allen, the city of La Crosse removed them to reveal a flat, open area that is now Springbrook Park. What started with an idea for a shelter to provide some shade eventually developed into permanent restrooms, a splash pad, and now an exciting new playground in place that wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication to his community and can-do spirit of Lee Allen.
Lee passed peacefully in his home on May 11th, 2019. The day before, he was able to see the surfacing installed under the swings. As his loving wife Janet proudly recalls, as far as he was concerned, he got to see the park completed... his dying wish. With Lee’s passing, Springbrook Park became the home of Lee A. Allen Playground.
Gerber’s product consultant Kyla worked closely with Lee throughout the project, from September 2018 through installation this spring. She remembers calls nearly every other day where she and Lee discussed updates to the design as he was diligent in creating the perfect park.
“Lee was a self-described pusher,” Kyla says, “and he wanted more. From the tower with all seven slides, net climbers, spring riders, and the double ZipKrooz included, he went to the city with the design and got exactly what he wanted! He really touched my heart. He wanted to create an amazing one-of-a-kind park perfect for all abilities and ages. The park you see installed today proves he accomplished this. It was an honor and a privilege to work with Lee and Janet, and it fills my heart with joy to know I was part of helping his dream come true. I will never forget this project and it will be one of my favorite parks forever.”
Kyla happily accepted the invitation to be present for the dedication that took place on Saturday, July 13th where she had a chance to talk with Janet about the newly completed park to learn more about how their vision became a reality.
When the city completed the removal of the ash trees, Lee insisted on providing shade so the neighborhood could use the space comfortably. He took it upon himself to reach out to the mayor and with that approval, quickly raised funds to build the shelter. He then thought permanent restrooms would be a great addition, because “women don’t like to use those port-a-potties”, he explained to Janet. Bringing the water lines for the restrooms sparked the idea for a splash pad, where families could play and cool off in the summer heat.
Janet recalls Lee enjoying watching the children play but realized there wasn’t much activity for older kids. With other playgrounds throughout the city under renovation, Lee reached out to the mayor one more time to ask for old equipment that may be able to be reused. Instead, the mayor was happy to reward his dedication and drive with funding for an entirely new playground of Lee’s choosing. With that, planning and design began and after several revisions, Lee had created the final piece of his dream. When we asked Janet what she and Lee would want us to know, she had some inspiring words.
“Having equipment for older kids was important, along with safety. They run from the splash pad to the slides and he wanted to be sure it was a safe place to play. Lee would thank everybody that was involved that worked so hard with him, whether it be the City of La Crosse, the mayor, our now-retired director Steve Carlyon, and all the many calls that he made to you, Kyla. He definitely had in mind exactly what he wanted. We went from thinking of a spacecraft park to the park that you see today, and we were led in the right direction because this provides so much for so many.
It’s above and beyond anything I ever imagined. Many times, Lee would say ‘Janet, you think I’m crazy, don’t you?’ and I would just shake my head because Lee was such a doer. He was so compassionate.
I can’t even express how it feels to see the park completed today, because it’s Lee. I feel his spirit over here. I worked side-by-side with him through the process and know how important it was to him. He always said this will be our legacy.”