Lake Country Faces: Pequot Lakes mom is excited to help bring a splash pad to town
Jenni Gonczy believes Trailside Park is the perfect place for this amenity in the town she's loved since she was a child.
Raising two energetic young kids, Jenni Gonczy is going full speed ahead to raise funds to build a splash pad in Pequot Lakes' Trailside Park.
"I want one in my backyard," Gonczy said of the zero-depth water amenity that includes sprays and water features, saying it's a perfect place for parents and grandparents to bring children.
To that end, she volunteered to spearhead fundraising for the amenity. After the city council threw its support behind the splash pad - provided no city-levied funds are used to construct it - Gonczy got busy.
"At first it was personal. My kids would love this. My niece and nephew would love this. We frequent the parks and I thought it'd be a nice addition."
— Jenni Gonczy
Working with Community Action of Pequot Lakes, Gonczy is part of a committee - she's the fundraising coordinator - that will work to raise a targeted $110,000 to construct the splash pad. That's the amount they estimate is needed in addition to the $69,000 the city has left from an anonymous donation in 2016 of $100,000 toward a splash pad.
The council was impressed with Gonczy's enthusiasm.
"I couldn't figure in the beginning why they weren't building it," she said. "And then everything started to get louder."
She heard rumors and misinformation about exorbitant costs to build the splash pad and who would pay for it - information that was misconstrued, she said.
"At first it was personal," she said. "My kids would love this. My niece and nephew would love this. We frequent the parks and I thought it'd be a nice addition."
Gonczy met with Emily Rolfson, a Brainerd mother who helped turn a splash pad project into reality in that city, to get more information.
"The points she made - it started to become less personal and more logical," Gonczy said.
She cited lesser known aspects of splash pads vs. lakes, including that splash pads are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, and that there is zero drowning risk. Though tourists would undoubtedly use the splash pad, Gonczy looks at it being for residents.
"Pequot's become this great town with a great school, great stores, great neighborhoods," she said, noting the city isn't just a tourist destination.
Gonczy loves the town square feel of Trailside Park and envisions busy moms and dads ordering lunch and coffee, as well as stepping into retail stores when taking their kids to the splash pad.
"It's been a political issue. To me, it wasn't a political issue," she said.
"There's a lot of people out there willing to make a donation," she added, saying donations are tax-deductible.
She credits so many others who got involved and for the work they have done over the past five years to research splash pads, as well as the team helping now to make the project a reality.
"Get people involved. This is your town. You can get involved and you can have a say," she said.
Gonczy's love of Pequot Lakes emerged at a young age while growing up in Baxter.
"My mom used to take us up here to eat at a couple restaurants she liked," she said. "Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to live here."
After graduating from Brainerd High School and spending two years in Eagan to become a certified veterinary technician, she moved to Pequot Lakes and has been here since 2006. She and her husband, Erin, first lived on Sibley Lake Road before moving into the city limits in 2018. They have two children - Julia, 6, and Calvin, 2.
"We tried to stay involved in what was happening right here in our community with the hope that the positivity with what was happening here would filter out."
— Jenni Gonczy
She wanted to get more involved in the city and attended the 2018 city council candidate forum to learn more about those seeking city office. A year ago, she was appointed to the city's planning commission.
She and Erin became concerned about the world after riots, protests and controversy erupted and wondered how they could help fix things.
"I said to him, 'Walk out the back door and get involved in the neighborhood,'" she said. "We tried to stay involved in what was happening right here in our community with the hope that the positivity with what was happening here would filter out."
For more information or to volunteer with the splash pad project, call 218-821-3425 or email email@example.com.
Drop a check at Merritt Jewelers on Front Street in Pequot Lakes.
Mail a check to: Community Action of Pequot Lakes, attention-splash pad, P.O. Box 491, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472.
Attend a fundraiser kickstarter event to learn more at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, at Lucky's Tavern on Government Drive in Pequot Lakes.
Attend a family movie fundraiser at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31, at Sunset Cinema, where all admission fees will be donated to the splash pad project.
Find more information on the Pequot Lakes Splash Pad and the Community Action of Pequot Lakes Facebook pages.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.