Mother of four helps lead project to improve Will Rogers Park in Claremore

CLAREMORE, OKLA. - Sometimes it only takes one person to help make a difference.

Crystal Campbell, a mother of four, has proven that after leading a two-year effort to redevelop and improve a park in Claremore.

In October 2012, she went before Claremore city leaders to ask if she could help bring some new attractions to Will Rogers Park. She proposed forming a citizen-led group that would raise money and oversee the updates at the park.

"We noticed that on a field trip with my daughter that we had to leave town to go to a big playground, and I was wondering why we were doing that," Campbell said.

"We saw a need," she added, "a need for a great place for kids to play and socialize and be active, and we went for it and it's paying off."

The Will Rogers Park project gained a lot of financial support from the beginning. Donations poured in from the Cherokee Nation as well as other local civic groups.

"The Elks Lodge in town (gave money)," Campbell said. "Our local VFW has stepped forward. Private citizens have helped us out in trying to make this dream come true."

BNSF, the railroad company, even gave $10,000 last week to help buy more playground equipment at the park. Other grants have helped the city install some new playground pieces already. Kathleen Rawlinson, a Claremore mother of two, said the new equipment helps keep her kids active and healthy.

"It's a fun spot. They love it, so we're here a lot," Rawlinson said. "Every week we'll be here."

Campbell and her group are also raising money to build a veterans memorial at the park for the community. They are also waiting to hear if their group will receive two grants to fund a new walking trail system as well as construction of a new picnic and restroom facility. The latter structure will go next to the splash pad that the City of Claremore installed at the park last fall.

"It is being used a bunch, and the kids love it," Campbell said about the new splash pad.

The local Master Gardeners group also plans to put in a teaching garden near the entrance to the park.

For someone whose only experience in government was student council, Campbell said city leaders are amazed with the progress that she and her group have made. She said the improvements to Will Rogers Park are only the beginning of even better things to come in Claremore.

"I think that the success of it is knowing that people are enjoying it," she said. "They'll continue to come (to the park) for years, and that makes all the sweat and energy that goes into it absolutely worth it."

She said her group now needs another $40,000 to add more handicap-accessible equipment to the playground. They are counting on the community to step up again and help raise the last bit of funding. 

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