New playground at Van Riper

One of the state parks in the Upper Peninsula is becoming more kid-friendly, just in time for Memorial Day.

Van Riper State Park in Champion has a brand-new playground.

A volunteer group, the Friends of Van Riper and Craig Lake, has spent three years working on it.

It cost $26,000.

The Friends group collected much of that money ten cents at a time.

“We did a lot of bottle deposit, can returns, koozies, T-shirts,” Friends of Van Riper and Craig Lake vice president Julie Hosang said. “We did have some larger donators, so we’re very grateful to them, and Lindberg & Sons did our excavating for free, so it’s been a community effort.”

The playground includes new swings, three slides and two rock climbing walls.

It’s ADA-accessible, which the old playground was not.

It also includes an animal tracker panel, “which does two things for each animal that’s an animal in the area and makes the noises of the lion and the wolf and the bear,” Hosang said. “It’s really exciting for the kids to have some education, especially for visitors from out of the area.”

There will be a grand opening ceremony for the new playground this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the park, which is on US-41 in Champion.