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Brighton Businesses Say they Rely on Imagination Station for Success

At the request of local business owners and residents, Brighton City Council is making efforts to reopen the Imagination Station this fall instead of waiting until next spring to take action.

After several weeks of discussions and disagreements amongst city officials and community members, decided at last Thursday's council meeting to move forward with City Manager Dana Foster's plan to repair and reopen the Imagination Station as soon as possible.

The city, which took over its care from volunteers in 2000, after a test confirmed in the play structure.

The decision to reopen the playscape came after several members of to keep the Imagination Station in order to avoid legal issues.

“This is killing our community. The Imagination Station is the centerpiece of our community that brings families together,” Renee Pettengill, a member of the volunteer group, said.

The Community Reacts

Many local business owners and residents support council's decision to reopen the Imagination Station sooner rather than later.

Sheryl Kemmerling, co-owner of , which opens onto Mill Pond Lane, said she is thrilled.

“I think city council made a good decision, and I hope they'll follow through quickly,” Kemmerling said, adding that she noticed a significant difference in business after the city closed the Imagination Station in August.

“I can sleep at night now,” she said.

Tracey Flanigan, who owns Art In Bloom, had similar sentiments.

“I'm glad they're reopening it as long as it's safe,” Flanigan, who taught elementary art classes for Brighton Area Schools for 12 years, said.

While her business hasn't been directly affected by the closure of the playscape, Flanigan said she's noticed a change in who visits her shop. She said she hardly ever sees patrons who used to stop in with their children on a regular basis. Those that she does see are devastated.

“Customers come in and look like their hearts were just pulled out,” Flanigan said.

Soon after learning about the Imagination Station's closure, Flanigan planned a silent auction to help raise funds to reopen the playscape. The auction will feature two murals painted by community residents who visited Flanigan's booth during the Brighton Fine Art and Acoustic Music Festival.

“It seemed fitting to run a silent auction that would allow the murals, painted and thoughtfully planned by area children to raise funds that will benefit a much loved and needed place in Brighton where imagination and creative play have always thrived,” Flanigan recently wrote on her blog, where more information about the auction is available.

Flanigan isn't the first community member to offer help. Pettengill said her email account and voice mailbox have been swamped with messages from people wanting to give money, time, materials, services.

“We have the money, manpower, and means to maintain the park in the future,” Pettengill said, referring to the volunteer group, tentatively called Friends of the Imagination Station. “We just need to city to work with us.”

The volunteer group that spoke at the council meeting hopes to place the care of the playscape, which was built by community volunteers in 1995, back in the hands of the public.

“Our goal from the beginning was to make it safe and start a friends of the park committee to give the park back to the people,” Pettengill said.

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