AVON LAKE - A grassroots effort to upgrade the Avon Lake Play Space at Bleser Park is off to a good start.
The Avon Lake Bicentennial Committee is donating $19,000 to the Renew ALPS (Avon Lake Play Space) Committee, money left over from the city's yearlong 200th birthday celebration that concluded July 4. Overall, the bicentennial committee had raised about $65,000.
A study the city contracted with the architectural firm last year that originally designed and built the Avon Lake Play Space on Avon Belden Road found that the 25-year-old play area needed repairs. An average of 200 children play daily at the park behind City Hall.
A redesign and community outreach effort was started by friends Brian Sabin and Emory Kopin, both 1998 Avon Lake High School graduates whose children play at the park. They saw that the playground had deteriorated over time and approached Mayor Greg Zilka and City Council member Jennifer Fenderbosch about pulling community efforts.
About 40 residents attended the first meeting, held Thursday at the Avon Lake Public Library, including Mayor Zilka and most City Council members. More meetings and an online survey will seek public input about the renovation.
Right now, plans are to use much of the donation for new, accessible and adaptable playground equipment for children with physical challenges. Total cost to update the playground is estimated to be in the excess of $160,000, more than double the initial cost of the current space.
"When we formed the Bicentennial Committee about 18 months ago, one of our goals was to give any leftover money to something that would be lasting to the community," said Barb Cagley, chairperson of the five-member committee. "We liked the idea of being able to provide money we had left over from businesses and sponsorships for playground equipment that could be used by all children.”
Cagley was among the volunteers who helped build the original play space in the early 1990s. Her 2-year-old granddaughter uses the park now.
"The play space was state of the art at the time, but it’s past its prime, for sure," Cagley said. "Everything fell into place beautifully for the donation. We're excited that someone wants to get the community together to upgrade it."
The donation is "a good way to carry on the city's bicentennial legacy,” said Sabin, who was in high school when he joined 600 other volunteers to help build the current playground. “That's a huge and generous donation. Right now, this is a grassroots community effort. The park needs updated."
Sabin and Kopin believe the park should be all-inclusive and possibly multi-generational, and are looking for public input on its design and equipment. They have posted a survey at http://bit.ly/RenewALPS that they hope 500 to 1,000 residents will complete in the next month.
The Friends of the Park accepted the contribution at its mid-August meeting and will handle the funds for Renew ALPS. The nonprofit group did the same for the Bicentennial Committee.
Sabin concluded the meeting by asking the audience, "If a park had one thing that would make you go to it every day, what would it be? We want everyone to have a space in the community that they can go to."
"Think big," Kopin said. "We want to do this right. It's going to take a lot of work, but our kids are worth it."
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