BRUNSWICK, Ohio — Brunswick City Schools intervention specialist and special education coordinator Leann Alferio said this week that she is “really excited” about City Council’s decision to devote funds toward a special needs inclusive playground at Neura Park.
Council approved a resolution May 24 to set aside up to $175,000 in city parks capital improvement funds for the project.
“I was really excited to hear that they set aside such a large amount,” Alferio said. “This was the jump-start the project needed.”
Alferio had approached Brunswick Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny in January with the idea for a playground that would incorporate both traditional and special needs-accessible equipment. Neura was chosen as a location for the playground, since upgrades to the park’s current playground were already on the parks department’s long-range to-do list.
A formal agreement between the city and Brunswick City Schools was approved in March, with the city overseeing construction and the district acting as the project’s fiscal agent. Brunswick Schools parent teacher organizations will be doing the bulk of the fundraising efforts for the estimated $300,000 to $400,000 project.
Brunswick City Schools Treasurer Mark Pepera said $2,600 in donations have officially been received thus far.
Alferio said fundraising for the project is expected to continue “for the next year or so,” with an anticipated late summer 2022 groundbreaking.
“It is good to see the city and the schools on the same page with this project,” Alferio said.
Fundraising remains key
Piepsny said the scope of the project is in part being driven by how much is ultimately collected in donations.
City Manager Carl DeForest explained that the $175,000 “earmark” will act as the city’s local match for a $175,000 Ohio Department of Natural Resources Natureworks grant that is being applied for. If the city receives the full $175,000 ODNR grant, DeForest said, the city will match up to $175,000 –depending upon what the PTOs raise — to meet the project cost estimate.
If the city is unsuccessful in securing the grant, he said, City Council would need to separately approve spending parks funds to directly support the inclusive playground project.
“It seems like a solid idea and I wonder why we didn’t think of it 15 years ago,” DeForest said of the project. “But we didn’t, and somebody approached us with it. So we want to support (the project) in any way we can.”
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