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'Pignic' in the park creates awareness, funding

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RONAN — Community members spent Saturday eating, listening to music, visiting, taking chances on pig poop bingo and playing in Bockman Park. The Pig in the Park event was meant to raise awareness and funds for play pods: innovative and culturally relevant playground equipment. It doubled as a way to bring attention to recent changes to the park’s maintenance structure and overall future. 

Park board president Tom McDonald said the days of holding events on the easternmost lawn of the park are likely coming to an end. The proposed expansion of Highway 93 is slated to eat up the parking along that side of the park. 

“It will be too loud and close to the highway to have anything like (the pig roast) here,” McDonald said. 

McDonald hopes the City of Ronan can negotiate some sort of plan with federal and state entities in charge of the project that will provide funding for the park in exchange for the land that will be taken away by the new highway. McDonald said the city has done a good job of negotiating thus far, but he encouraged townspeople to let the council know that the park is a priority. 

“Talk to our city council and make sure there is funding for Ronan City parks,” McDonald said. “There’s been some recent events and we need your help (with that) also.” 

The recent event McDonald referred to is the elimination of Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Rolfsness’ position in a round of budget cuts at the last city council meeting. 

Rolfsness was the person who first envisioned the new innovative playground in the park in 2010. She spearheaded the project and had raised $20,000 in grants and donations for it before her job was cut. 

She was happy to see people out in full force buying pork plates on Saturday. 

“I think it went well. I think it’s an indication that people like the park and enjoy the park,” Rolfsness said. “It shows people want to be a part of the community. The Ronan Park is the heartbeat of the community.” 

Rolfsness said she was grateful to Rod Smart for donating the pork, the volunteers who brought side dishes, the Kicking Horse Job Corps students who spent their time soliciting donations, musician Halliday Quist for performing on short notice, and countless others. 

“This reminds me of what Ronan has always been: a community that will come together for the rest of the community,” Tracy Morgieau Frank said. “Maybe the play pods will bring more people together. The one sad thing about it is that the person who commandeered so much of this will no longer be an employee of the city.” 

The play pods have the support of at least 18 governmental, educational, and community organizations, according to information compiled by the park board. 

Ronna Walchuk, a friend of the park board, said she supports the project for many reasons. 

“I believe in our community,” Walchuk said. “I believe our kids need to be healthy. I love that it is scientific and educational. There is nothing about it that isn’t 100-percent positive.” 

The park board is selling customized bricks, benches, and flooring for the pods to help raise equipment funds. Donations can be sent to Ronan Parks — Pathway Project, Ronan Parks and Recreation, City Hall, 207 Main Street S.W. Suite A, Ronan, MT 59864. 

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