The park will offer activities for everyone, regardless of age or ability

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A $5.4 million fundraising campaign for a new Mansfield Park project, billed by organizers as “the largest of its kind in the state of Ohio,” kicked off Thursday at Sterkel Park on Hillcrest Street .

Michele Giese, superintendent of Richland Newhope, said more than half of the money, nearly $3 million, had already been raised through donations.

On Thursday, Richland County commissioners officially allocated $500,000 of the county’s $23.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project.

“The community park for all”

Called “The Community Park for All”, the project was officially launched with a press conference and lunch at the 20-acre site, an all-inclusive park and playground. The park will serve children and adults of all ages and abilities throughout North Central Ohio, according to a press release from organizers.

The American with Disabilities Act-compliant playground will include five age-appropriate zones with equipment and opportunities to improve children’s mobility and sensory abilities, challenge athletic users, support activities for seniors and unite families.

The planned 20-acre all-inclusive park and playground at Sterkel Park will include a playground train.

The park will include a pavilion, picnic tables and grills, pickleball courts and a multi-purpose court, ground-level play equipment for children of all abilities, an outdoor fitness area, a 26-foot-tall Sky Tower activities for ages 5 and older, play equipment and natural playground for ages 2 and older, obstacle course for teens and adults, and a walking trail one kilometer long all year round.

A consortium of three organizations ― the City of Mansfield, Newhope and the Chamber’s Richland Community Development Group (RCDG) ― worked with equipment suppliers.

The park is in the city’s largest residential areas and a short distance from Newhope Raintree, the Catalyst Life Services Rehabilitation Center, medical offices, and the YMCA of North Central Ohio.

Citizens asked to help create a ‘wonderful and unique place’

In addition to the $500,000 contribution from Richland County Commissioners announced Thursday, donations have been made by the Family and Children First Council, the Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities-Newhope, the Sterkel Foundation (owner of the land), the City of Mansfield, the State of Ohio, the Richard and Arline Landers Foundation, the Ashland County Community Foundation-Taylor Fund and the Richland County Foundation-Gross Fund, according to the press release.

The community is now invited by campaign leader Chriss Harris to help complete the fundraising efforts.

“It’s all about our community. It’s about giving all of our kids a chance in a wonderful, unique place,” Harris said.

Officials estimate there are 13,000 Richland County residents who are affected by some type of disability and 23,000 seniors who could use the free facility.

The park will be built in phases as money is donated. Giess said she hopes enough funds will be raised to complete the project by the end of 2023.

Donations can be made online at the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce website, richlandareachamber.com under “Park”. Check donations can be made payable to RCDG-Park Project c/o Richland Newhope, 314 Cleveland Ave., Mansfield, Ohio 44902.

The Community Park for All, planned on Hillcrest Street in Mansfield, will offer something for people and children of all ages and abilities.

Sterkel Park is maintained by the City of Mansfield. The park is named after the late philanthropist Justine Sterkel, who owned the land off Lexington Avenue and fought to keep the land for public charitable institutions.

The park is at East Cook Road, Hollywood Lane, Hillcrest Street and has long been open to the public.

Correspondent Al Lawrence contributed to this article.

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Richard V. Johnson