A few years back, Canfield resident Henry Halstead donated some land off state Route 46 in Canfield Township for the purpose of constructing a state-of-the-art playground that will accommodate people with special needs.
The dream is now on paper and will soon become a reality called The Walnut Grove, a place for special-needs children to go with family and friends.
The playground will be built using accessible feature so children of all abilities could play together.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
The Walnut Grove board director Elizabeth O’Hara shows the plan for the new playground in Canfield Township that will be outfitted for children of all abilities. Project plans and a design are complete, and the board of 11 people is preparing for Phase I later this year.
According to The Walnut Grove board member Elizabeth O'Hara, the organization of a board for this project took place in 2013. The board presently has 11 members and a lot of community support.
"As a board, we sat down and came up with a design," O'Hara said. "I had visited a dozen playgrounds in Ohio and none had the diversity we will have."
She said when the entire project is completed in Canfield Township, the investment will be more than $1.3 million.
As for the name, O'Hara said Halstead, who donated the 20 acres, had a passion for walnut trees and requested some be planted on the property.
The board members worked hard in both fundraising efforts as well as seeking grants. One 80 percent grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, O'Hara said, will help fund the trail system at the new park. It includes a connector to the Mill Creek MetroParks Bikeway.
"This summer the trails are going in," O'Hara said. "We need to come up with the 20 percent local match, which is close to $50,000."
A fundraiser recently was held at St. Michael's Church in Canfield. It was a swing, wine and dine event to help raise the local match, but that is only the beginning.
The nonprofit organization will need to put in a parking lot off state Route 46 and then prepare for the first phase of playground construction that is estimated to run close to a half-million dollars. A grant of $250,000 was received from the Hine Fund that will enable Phase I to get underway this summer.
The trails are expected to be complete this spring, and then work can begin on the playground itself, which is expected to kick off in early summer.
Phase I equipment includes a horizontal ladder, climbing unit, slide, seesaw, Sway Fun Glider, Boogie Board and TopsyTurvy Spinner. All the equipment is geared for those who are physically impaired.
"Many times, a child with braces can't climb the stairs often associated with playground equipment," O'Hara said. "A child with visual impairments can't see the changes in ground surface, or the child who can't hold themselves upright can't enjoy the swings."
She said all these children were considered when The Walnut Grove was designed. While a lot of the focus is on those children, the intent of the park and playground is all about family. It is about the special-needs children enjoying the day with family and friends.
O'Hara said the hope is to have Phase I finished by the end of this year. Then, depending on funding and where the project is at, start Phase II in 2018. In Phase II, O'Hara said there will be a zip line for handicapped children to enjoy, along with wheelchair swings, musical instruments and more.
Phase I will be formed around a circular path that will be wheelchair-accessible. Phase II will include equipment set up around the outside of that path.
"Once this is up and running, we are planning to have community fun days to get the whole community involved," O'Hara said.
For more information of The Walnut Grove, visit ww.TheWalnutGrove.com.
"This is going to be a wonderful addition to our Canfield community," Canfield Township trustee Marie Cartwright said.
One item Cartwright, who sits on the local fire board, will be looking at is the fire truck playground equipment that will be included in Phase II. The directors are asking local fire departments to donate and have their emblem placed on the piece, which will help fund it.