The Traffic Safety Park in Raahe

 

Writer: Erkki Pisilä, President of Raahe Rotary Club

Photos: Rotarian Risto Korva and Inner Wheeler Marja-Leena Korva

ROTARY’S CENTENNIAL GIFT TO THE CHILDREN

(Raahe Rotary Club and Pietari Brahe Rotary Club, District 1400, Finland)

The fourth meeting of the 2000 – 2001 RI Board of Directors was held at one Rotary Center in Evanston, Illinois, USA, from 10-15 of February 2001. The board made several decisions,  in preparation for the celebration of Rotary’s centennial in 2005 one of those was namely, “Take Action”. In the year 2002 RI’s  president challenged all of the world’s rotary clubs to undertake a celebration year project, which would permanently service the clubs own city. This message was also received in the small 356 year old coastal Finnish town of Raahe. Raahe is home to 23,000 inhabitants, and two rotary clubs (Raahe and Pietari Brahe), which are in District 1400.

During the November 7th, 2002 for the Raahe Rotary Club, the members held a brainstorming session (like Paul Harris did in 1905 for their own projects)  to develop ideas for their 100 years of Rotary project. They left the meeting having decided that the project they were to undertake would serve the children and youth of the economic area served by Raahe. The project developed further, and it was decided that the club would build a Traffic Safety Park in a vaccant lot along the beach. As the project solidified with the collection of information and developmental planning gaining momentum, the clubs realized it was time to ”Take Action. 

From the very beginning of the project, both clubs were involved. The idea was accepted so well at the district, that it was decided to use part of the District 1400 SDG funds. In the beginning of 2003, we began the advanced planning, and began contact with the city to gain access to the desired lot for our traffic park. The city of Raahe addressed our project possitively and was ready to help with the basic infrastructural needs, such as road, water, and electrical service.

After the advance planning was done, Rotary asked the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare Union to work with on this project. From there, it was hoped that the Child Protection organization would manage and keep up the park. It was also hoped that the child protection organization would attend our 85th anniversary in 2005.

Rotarians were ready to build, plan, and brain-storm how they were going to raise the estimated 180,000 dollars that was going to be needed for the project. To make things more difficult, the time frame to gather this money was increadibly limited if we were going to get the project done in time.

In 2004, we prepared the final plans for building the individual peices of the project (roads, road signs, traffic signals, vehicles, and buildings for maintenance and training). We felt that we would use the professional skills within our club to the greatest extent possible.

We broke ground in December of 2004. During that time we were also in contact with all of those groups that were along with us on the project. Some of those groups are, the City of Raahe, Employment and Economic Development Center, as well as many local companies that were in contact with Rotary.

Spring 2005, brought a busy time of building which lasted 6 months. The freetime of rotarians was immediately filled with volunteer work. Planning and untertaking the project, took nearly 4000 hours of rotarians time. The work was done during the day, evening and on weekends with a cheerful, willing ”Service above self” attitude. During the time the project was going on, the way many rotarian hands came together to form one result was amazing. Those retirees in our clubs did an outstanding amount of work. Project coordinator Erkki Ojaniemi did over 400 hours of work himself. Each rotarian was responsible for managing their own work. Many of the woman of rotary did the gardening and painting, and many of the men built the maintence building, office, traffic signs, and the fence. Along with these rotarians were family members, grandchildrem, Rotary Inner Wheelers, and our Youth Exchange student from Australia. The rotarians who, for whatever reason, were unable to help, had the oppurutunity to buy their hours as a way of raising funds for the project.

The traffic park was finally ready after three years of work and planning, and just in time for the Centennial year of Rotary. The Grand Opening celebration was set for the 13th of October. At the celebration was PDG Matti Heikkinen, whose architectural firm made the final design of the building, as well as kindergartners who had the job of parading the new bikes around. The Mayor of Raahe, along with the directors of the Employment and Economic Development Center were also there to thank the clubs for their work, and encourage the local families to take advantage of this wonderful resource. It was also given great attention by TV read and print media. The Rotary clubs of Raahe to the wishes of Rotary International and made the come to life, in amazing fashion. This project, situated on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, not only enhances the cities coast, but helps keep our children safer. Judging by the bright smiles on their faces, they enjoy the park as well.

To watch more pictures of the project you can find in the links on the left frame.