As Bexley prepares for the opening of Schneider Park, its first new park in 42 years, volunteers pitched in April 5 and 6 to build a playground next to the park's athletics fields.
Schneider Park is in the Ferndale Place-Mayfield Place neighborhood off of East Livingston Avenue near the Bexley Community Garden. The park is officially scheduled to open with a May 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony.
After environmental remediation was completed last year, the city began developing athletics fields in Schneider Park. The playground is the result of a $65,000 donation from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to the city, Mayor Ben Kessler said.
"The park is something we've been working on for many years," said Kessler, who was among about 20 volunteers who participated in building the playground. "We put it in place to be an amenity for the community. We've got this great greenspace here, some parking for the fields and also for the community garden."
The playground will provide recreation for children who live in the area, Kessler said.
"We had a lot of kids at Ferndale, Mayfield and also Bexley Village apartments and along Sheridan and there's no playground within walking distance," he said. "Having this playground here, having this picnic shelter here, is just a great community gathering space and it's just amazing to see it going up."
The Bexley Recreation and Parks Department plans to offer free activities at the site this summer and eventually transfer some of the youth soccer practices that currently take place in Commonwealth Park, said Barb Greiner, a recreation supervisor. Greiner is also a board member of the Development Assets Resource Network, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for Bexley families in need.
Schneider Park will provide much-needed recreational space for southwest Bexley, Greiner said.
"There are families here and children here and it's Bexley. It's a part of the community which we needed to address a need, and we've addressed it," she said. "It's going to be beneficial for all the kids who live here."
The playground will offer recreational options for children while they wait for older siblings to finish soccer practice, said Councilman Richard Sharp, chairman of Bexley City Council's Recreation and Parks Committee.
"The kids in the area don't have to travel so far to Montrose (Elementary School)," Sharp said. "They get to have a little fun and be within shouting distance."
Mike Denison, a member of the Bexley Board of Education, said the Schneider Park playground and fields are designed for the entire community.
"We also wanted to make sure this is an asset for this particular neighborhood, both for Ferndale and Mayfield, but for all the kids who are surrounding here," Denison said. "Having this as an asset also shows that the city and the schools and the parks department all want to invest in this area of town and make this an asset for the folks who live here."
Bexley Public Library Director Ben Heckman, who is also a member of the Bexley Lions Club, said helping to build the Schneider Park playground was an ideal project for members of the service organization.
"I think every part of Bexley is important. This (site) is close to the library," Heckman said of Schneider Park. "We can always use another park in Bexley. The fields and the playground that we're building here will be a great addition for the kids."
Property developer Alex Picazo, who recently purchased apartment buildings in the Ferndale-Mayfield neighborhood, said he hopes that Schneider Park will help connect the area with the rest of Bexley.
"One, Ferndale-Mayfield residents need a nice place to spend time and for their kids to be safe," Picazo said. "And two, I think it's a great opportunity for the community to mix together and really start feeling like one community."