Custer Fund donation allows Meadow Crest Playground to proceed

Renton Parks Planning and Natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach accepts a check from the Renton Community Foundation
Renton Parks Planning and Natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach accepts a check from the Renton Community Foundation's Larry Warren, left, and the Custer Fund's Harry Blencoe, right, during Monday's council meeting.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

The city of Renton on Monday officially accepted a donation that will allow the new Meadow Crest inclusive playground to begin being built.

City attorney and Renton Community Foundation president Larry Warren and local businessman Harry Blencoe were at the city council meeting Monday to present the parks and recreation department with a $200,000 check from the Charles Custer Fund, which the Foundation manages.

The check brings the total raised for the playground, to be built across city and school district property near Meadow Crest, to approximately $700,000.

"This significant contribution helps insure the success of this playground," Parks Planning and Natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach said after accepting the check. "We're on our way."

The $200,000 donation is the largest received for the playground.

Blencoe, who was named executor of the will of Charles Custer and advisor for the fund, spoke briefly at the meeting about Custer. According to Blencoe, Custer, the only son of Renton pioneers George and Anna Custer, was a 1930 Renton High School graduate, who worked at the Renton Post Office and served as a postmaster in World War II.

Charles Custer never had children and inherited his parent's estate, where he continued to live until he died in September 2000 and left his estate to charities, including money for Renton parks.

In the past, according to Warren, the Custer fund has given money for the renovations at Burnett Park and for lighting on Liberty Park ballfields.

"I think Charles wants me to remind people these donations are in memory of George and Anna Custer," Blencoe said.

The Meadow Crest Playground is designed as an all-inclusive playground and each piece of play equipment is fully accessible, no matter the child's physical or mental disability. It is designed to stimulate the physical, mental and senses and promotes working and playing alongside people who are fully able-bodied.

The playground would be the first of its kind in Renton and the largest fully-accessible playground in the South Sound.

Betlach said the Renton School District is taking the lead on the project and hopes to get permits this week with completion of the project scheduled for this fall.

"This check actually allows the program to move forward as scheduled," Betlach said.

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