MIDDLEPORT — The splash park project that began last August was completed two weeks ahead of schedule to the delight of children in Meigs County.
Opened July 25 and located in General Hartinger Park in Middleport, the recreation area resulted from efforts and cooperation between the Village of Middleport, Meigs County Commissioners, Meigs Health Department’s Creating Healthy Communities Project and the county grant administrator.
In 2014, then-county grant administrator Denise Alkire and Mike Hendrickson, of the Middleport Village Planning and Zoning Department, wrote for and were awarded a $300,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Grant. The grant initiatives included replacement of playground equipment, sidewalk improvement, fire protection and equipment, and demolition of two structures. As a result of staff turnover, progress on the playground project was thwarted.
Grant money has time constraints determined by the issuer and Middleport was approaching that deadline last August.
The Meigs County Health Department’s Creating Healthy Communities coalition had begun planning for a splash park, but did not have a site or the needed funding of around $80,000 for the proposed center.
A splash park was something the coalition felt would be attractive to families, especially after receiving reports about the success of one in Perry County.
Laura Cleland, representing Creating Healthy Communities, also serves as the grant coordinator for the Meigs County Health Department. Her efforts landed a $25,000 Creating Healthy Communities grant, which comes through the Ohio Department of Health.
Since the coalition had a plan in place for a park, $50,000 in unspent funds from Middleport’s Neighborhood Revitalization Grant were able to be reallocated by the county commissioners to fund the splash park.
Additionally, a building to house the electrical controls was purchased by the health department’s Together on Diabetes grant for $1,195.
Employees of the Village of Middleport stepped in and contributed labor in preparing the water and sanitary sewer lines.
The project now had funding, but needed approval from the Village of Middleport on location.
Cleland and Tim King, representing the Middleport Development Group, presented the council with plans to locate the park on a piece of land adjacent to the old Middleport schools. The pair said this specific location was chosen because of its floodplain level and proximity to Middleport Village Hall/police station.
Initially, the concern brought forth by the council was that neighbors would not want the splash park in the area. At the Jan. 11 Middleport Council meeting, both King and Cleland returned with further research and approval from nearby residents. The pair told council they needed permission to put the park on the land, but that the village would still own the property and the park would be entirely funded, so the village would not have to pay for the expense. Council this time voted unanimously in favor of the park.
With obstacles behind them, the project’s supporters began to move forward with the selection of David Williams and Associates Inc. to design, plan and provide the necessary equipment.
“Our whole goal is to increase access to recreational opportunities,” Cleland said at that time. “I’m really excited about the project.”
Now completed, the splash park includes a Fill N’ Spill, Slash-O-Lator, Popp Dropp, Baby Long Legs, a Water Weave and Aqua Arch.
“The park is user-friendly: by pushing a button, the water is activated and shuts off automatically after 15 minutes if no one is there, or users can push button and it keeps going,” Cleland said. “We wanted something simple, user-friendly, for kids to use. All they need to do is push a button.”
There are only two other splash parks in southeastern Ohio — Ironton and Marietta.
“We are all about creating healthy communities,” Cleland said. “This park is open to all residents of the county as well as people outside the county. It is something unique that kids and parents can enjoy.”
The only thing lacking at the park are benches, and the community is encouraged to support efforts to place benches around the area.
According to Middlport Village Fiscal Officer Susan Baker, water turned on for six hours a day for three months would cost the village about $1,000 a year.
Cleland credited David Williams and Associates president Bob Greiwe and vice president of operations Kyle Jones. She said they were instrumental in the planning and implementation phases of the splash park.
“They went above and beyond to meet the needs of all involved. Aug. 5 was the originally scheduled completion date, the park was opened to the public July 25, almost two weeks ahead of schedule,” she said. “We wanted to open before school began in the area and were very appreciative the company kept its commitment.”
Cleland said the success of the project was due to local support and the advocacy of many people.
Reach Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155, Ext. 2551