Eight-year-old Gary Rosado displayed a contented smile July 5 as he reclined while going to and fro on an arch swing at the Gantz Park playground, 5522 Home Road in Grove City.

"I like the swings," he said. "You can just lay back and relax."

"It looks so relaxing, you could probably fall asleep pretty easily," said Shirley Rosado, Gary's grandmother.

Shirley, Gary and his sister, MaryAnn, 5, were among the Grove City residents who were exploring the expanded and improved playground at Gantz Park.

Although the playground had a soft opening to introduce new equipment on June 24, the official grand opening and ribbon cutting was held July 5 as part of the kickoff to the city's celebration of National Parks and Recreation Month.

The improvements to the playground added elements that match the park's nature theme and made the playground accessible for all youngsters.

The city received a $300,000 grant in 2018 for the project. The money came from state funds in the capital budget set aside to support community recreation projects.

Grove City provided 25% in matching funds for the project.

The city funding helped pay for the landscaping and final work for the playground project, recreation supervisor Kelly Sutherland said.

Gantz Park "is really the granddaddy of all of our parks," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

"It's a hidden jewel of Grove City parks," he said.

"We have so many parks that a lot of people who live in one part of the city may not be aware of what's offered at parks in other areas," Sutherland said.

With its rolling terrain, Gantz Park serves as the city's "nature park," she said.

The park includes the Gardens at Gantz Farm and a 2-story barn that is used for various programs and activities, including the city's RecSchool early childhood program. The eastern side of the park is designated as the Gantz Park Arboretum.

"The entire park is a great place for families and children to come and explore and experience nature," Sutherland said.

The playground enhancements include climbing fixtures and other components with a nature theme, she said.

Franco Manno, senior landscape architect with EMH&T, designed the improvements, and the new equipment was purchased from DWA Recreation, formerly David Williams and Associates, Sutherland said.

"We were able to take advantage of a sale that DWA was having with almost 50 percent off the play equipment so we have double the amount of equipment we would have had if bought without the sale," she said.

Along with the nature-themed components, traditional structures, including swings and slides, are available, Sutherland said.

The playground was made accessible by adding a rubberized surface to replace the mulch that was previously used and installing ramps and other features, she said.

Grove City now has two all-purpose playgrounds "and we think we're one of the few central Ohio communities that can say that," Stage said.

The other accessible playground at Windsor Park is located adjacent to the Dream Field where games in the city's Buddy Ball League for special needs children and adults are played.

Grove City is dedicated to providing recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone, Stage said.

"What we're trying to do is serve children and adults of all abilities," he said.

Shirley Rosado said she has been coming to Gantz Park and its playground since her son was a child.

"I really like the additions to the playground," she said. "It seems like it's more spaced out, so there's more room for everybody and there's more things for kids to do."

The sheltered seating area gives parents and grandparents a place to relax, she said.

Gary said he likes the new playground, too.

"The slides are bigger, so they are more fun to slide down," he said.

Although youngsters are free to explore the entire playground, the site has been designed with three play areas, including one aimed for toddlers and another for older children ages 5-12, Sutherland said.

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