By Vicki Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Access to Recreation projects headed the list of 2008 improvements in the city and county parks.
The five projects - designed to make outdoor recreation accessible to people with disabilities - are being funded by a $419,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich. When added to $327,000 in local matching funds, the project totals $746,000.
Three of the five projects are complete or nearing completion.
One of them has been the addition of asphalt trails, a paved oval track and other improvements to Opportunity Park at Seneca County Opportunity Center.
Tiffin University Nature Preserve and Zimmerman Nature Preserve also have new paved walking trails. TU's park is also getting a handicapped-accessible shelter, while Zimmerman has a shelter, benches and raised beds for gardening while sitting in a wheelchair or without bending over. A water pump designed for handicapped accessibility also is planned for watering plants at Zimmerman.
The two Tiffin projects are moving along.
A half-mile-long paved trail, decks and a shelter house at Schekelhoff Nature Preserve are planned for construction this year. And the rest of the city's portion of the funds are to be used for a deck overlooking Rock Creek at Hedges-Boyer.
According to the 2008 Tiffin Park and Recreation annual report written by Director Steve Dryfuse, those were the two main projects last year.
At Schekelhoff, the Public Works Department put in a parking area for use by people who plan to use the new paved walking trail after it is completed. Surveying and engineering work has been completed.
At Hedges-Boyer Park, the Lupton Bridge project was started and should be completed this spring.
The barn underwent several improvements, including new lighting, installation of a new countertop and a concrete deck, as well as a cleaning of the loft. Two new grills were added and 10 tables were added inside.
Among the playground and other maintenance was the addition of a swing for use by people with disabilities.
The pool building at Hedges-Boyer received a new roof and the outside was painted. In the pool, the mushroom fountain was removed and capped because it leaked, and landscaping in the circle area near the pool was improved.
Portions of the Rock Creek bank also were restored.
All 13 parks received routine maintenance with painting and equipment upkeep.
The Park and Recreation Building got new windows in the office on two sides.
New signs were erected at Applejack, Highland and Nature Trails parks, while new trees were planted at Stalter Park.
Unsafe playground equipment was removed from Beechwood Park and the department is awaiting word on a grant to replace the equipment.
At two of the parks along the river - Josiah Hedges and Nature Trails - Dryfuse said the banks were cleaned of debris and trash last summer during the annual Sandusky River Clean Sweep.
Among the active recreation programs in the parks were baseball, softball and football leagues; disc golf; sand volleyball; Adventure Day Camps; Summer PLAY Days; and youth camps, including swim, tennis, baseball, bowling and soccer.
Special events for 2008 included Junior Olympics; the Pitch, Hit and Run baseball competition; Kite Festival; Hooked on Fishing derby; the National City Bank concert series and Summer Splash; the Fourth of July celebration; Island Party in the Park; movies under the stars; Seneca Krusiers car show; Punt, Pass and Kick local, sectional and state competition; and Calls from Santa Claus.
The parks also worked in cooperation with 18 other organizations on programs, activities and improvements to the parks.
The Seneca County Park District also made progress last year.
The district now has six parks open to residents :
Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve, about 1 1/2 miles south of Bloomville on SR 19.
Forrest Nature Preserve, on East CR 6, just west of TR 152 and 0.7 mile east of SR 231.
Steyer Nature Preserve, North CR 33 east of Fort Seneca, along the Sandusky River.
Bowen Nature Preserve, just west of West Lodi between CR 38 and CR 24.
Tiffin University Nature Preserve, just west of Tiffin on Miami Street.
Zimmerman Nature Preserve, in eastern Tiffin on SR 18.
In addition, the park district has a cooperative agreement with the Seneca County Opportunity Center to allow the public to use Opportunity Park.
Earlier this month, a Norwalk church donated its half-interest in a six-acre parcel at Bowen preserve, so the park district no longer shares the area.
Director Roland Zimmerman said there is the possibility of acquiring a 65-acre tract of land along the Sandusky River adjacent to Steyer Nature Preserve just north of Tiffin-Seneca Izaak Walton League's property. The land - valued at $232,000 - possibly could be acquired through a Clean Ohio conservation grant, but the park district would have to provide a 25-percent match, or $58,000. Zimmerman said the Black Swamp Conservancy of Perrysburg has expressed interest in helping the park district raise matching funds. Anyone who wants to donate to the project should contact Zimmerman at (419) 447-8091 or the conservancy at (419) 872-5263.
Also at Steyer preserve, volunteers built and installed a 120-foot bridge and several smaller bridges to improve the trail system.
At Bowen preserve, a parking lot was built using a $6,300 from the Ohio Department of Transportation and the use of donated construction equipment.
In addition to the A2R projects at Zimmerman preserve, the park was recipient of 30 balled flowering trees.
At Garlo preserve, a parking lot was added for horse trailers using $29,000 in ODOT grant money.
Also at Garlo, volunteers hauled more than 30 loads of soil to fortify the dikes around the lake.
A new information kiosk was built at Forrest preserve by the building trades program at Sentinel Career Center.
Started last year and continuing into this year is clearing of a walking and bicycle path along the Sandusky River in cooperation with Clinton Township trustees. Tentatively named "Clinton Trails," the stone path starts at the north edge of Tiffin's Schekelhoff park and is to continue down an unpaved township road to TR 132, providing about three miles of traffic-free biding and walking for families. The first phase might be finished this spring.
Out & About Preschool, under the direction of Linda Rose, has a full enrollment in its second year.
Rose, as program director, said she conducted 142 programs last year and almost 4,500 people participated, an increase of 130 people from 2007. She also provided programs for civic organizations and schools.
She and assistant Tammy Vargo plan to conduct a workshop March 21 for about 50 teachers on nature activities for children during an upcoming Sandusky Valley Conference of Educators.
Zimmerman said the park district hosted two community events last year. Oktoberfest at Garlo preserve drew 1,200 people and the Eastern Woodland Native American Gathering and Pre-1840 Encampment at Steyer preserve drew about 400.