By Kevin Kelley
Morton Park will be getting new playground equipment this summer, thanks to a state grant.
The $55,000 grant comes from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and ODNR’s director, James Zehringer, personally visited city officials on Feb. 18 to present the grant. The city will contribute about $19,000 for the equipment.
“One of the things that Gov. (John) Kasich has always stressed is, How do we get more kids outside and enjoying the great outdoors?” Zehringer said during the presentation at the Gemini Center.
The new equipment will be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Zehringer noted, meaning children with physical disabilities will be able to utilize the new playground.
“We really appreciate the opportunity to help with this project,” Zehringer said.
Zehringer also credited Fairview Park development administrator Matt Hrubey for submitting a well-written grant application.
“Updating Morton Park is vital to the community as it caters near exclusively to a key demographic in the city: children ages 3 to 12,” the application stated. Morton Park is located at the intersection of West 223rd Street and Morton Avenue.
Mayor Eileen Patton and Recreation Department Director Kenn Kaminski were joined during the presentation by several area youths spending a snow day at the rec center.
Patton told the boys she expected them to be at Morton Park when the equipment is installed.
The mayor said the project would not have been possible without the state’s help.
The new playground equipment will be installed this spring or summer, Kaminiski said. Usable playground equipment currently at Morton Park will be reinstalled at Grannis Park, which is located off West 202nd Street.
The Morton Park project was one of 90 funded, out of 129 applicants, as part of the state’s NatureWorks grant program. NatureWorks projects are funded through a Ohio Parks and Natural Resources bond issue that was approved by Ohio voters in November 1993.
Zehringer said the ODNR has three main responsibilities – to promote and update the state’s parks, to improve water quality and to ensure that oil and gas development is done safely.
With regard to the last objective, Zehringer noted that oil and gas drilling in Ohio began 150 years ago, in days of little regulation.
Last week, a spokesman for Gov. Kasich told The Columbus Dispatch that the governor does not support hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in state parks. Hydraulic fracturing is a process used to extract underground oil and natural gas.
Also last week, an August 2012 ODNR memo outlining a plan to market fracking in state parks came to light. The memo, uncovered by the Ohio Sierra Club, discussed how the oil and gas industry could overcome opposition from environmental groups and legislators.
A 2011 state law allowed fracking in state parks, but a commission required under the law was never formed by the governor.
Zehringer told West Life that Ohio’s rules on well construction, a step in fracking required to protect groundwater, are the most stringent in the nation. He also asked people with concerns about the safety of fracking to be sure to get the facts.