Donor Sign and Benches Finish Off Sunset Beach Playground

Members of the Friends of Lake Panorama board of directors are shown with the Sunset Beach playground donor recognition sign. Left to right are Tricia Steffen, Emily Spradling, Dave Furbush, Bob McCleeary, Jan Reinicke and Jody Muench. Not pictured is board member Kim Lubeck. One of the new benches was donated by neighbors of Sunset Beach in memory of Ray Russell. Russell, who lived near the beach for 10 years, passed away in December 2016. Two of the new benches were installed on the northwest side of the Sunset Beach playground.

By Susan Thompson

Some final touches to the Sunset Beach playground now are in place. Three coated metal benches were installed earlier this summer around the perimeter of the playground, and a donor recognition sign was erected in early September. The playground opened in July 2016.

Donations totaling $80,000 given to the Friends of Lake Panorama 501(c)3 nonprofit charity made up the base support for the new playground. The Lake Panorama Association provided an additional $50,000. The LPA also provided technical and construction assistance.

While donations of all sizes helped make the playground possible, only donors of $500 or more are recognized on the sign. The sign also features a graphic of Lake Panorama, with key area names on the map. A red “You Are Here” arrow marks the Sunset Beach location. This same graphic will be used on future donor signs as new projects are completed.

One of the new benches was donated by Sunset Beach neighbors as a memorial to Ray Russell, who passed away in December 2016. For 10 years, Ray and his wife Barb lived a few houses away from Sunset Beach, before moving to Arizona. The Russells often joined with other neighbors to help maintain the landscaping at Sunset Beach.  

Ray was well known throughout the neighborhood for sharing the bounty from his large garden. He fished from his boat or Sunset Beach almost daily throughout the season, and the couple hosted a fish fry each fall, which featured crappie, walleye and catfish, plus fried okra and hush puppies.

The other two metal benches were purchased from funds donated earlier to the playground project. Earlier donations also covered the cost to refurbish a wooden bench that had to be moved to make way for the playground. Kurt Johnson volunteered to replace the deteriorated wooden slats with new cedar, which he stained and sealed. He also repainted the metal braces, and installed the bench in a new location just north of the playground.

More details about the Sunset Beach playground project, plus other completed projects and those currently underway, can be found online at