By Elise Franco
The James L. Wick Recreation Area’s face-lift has begun.
Mill Creek MetroParks operations director Steve Avery said the project is part of the park’s master plan and will cost about $840,000 to complete every phase.
The first phase of the play area’s overhaul is the site work, which includes the demolition and rebuilding of the volleyball courts, removing old playground equipment, earth work, underground utility installation, concrete pouring, curbing, site drainage, lighting and fencing.
The site-work phase, which costs about $381,000, was paid for through a $400,000 donation made to the Mill Creek Park Foundation by Atty. Robert Rusu on behalf of Juliana Kurinka when she died in 2005.
Kurinka stipulated that the money was to be used for the James L. Wick Recreation Area, which is off McCollum Road in Youngstown.
Avery said the site work began about two weeks ago and is a crucial part of the construction because of how dated the original infrastructure was.
“We can’t have the new play equipment until the infrastructure is taken care of,” he said. “The concrete and drainage is the original work done in 1955.”
Avery said the construction crew has 70 calendar days for the site-work operations and expects it to be completed no later than the end of June.
He said the park has already purchased some of the new playground equipment and will install those pieces immediately after site-work completion.
“The other equipment was 23 years old, and by the nature of playgrounds today, it was boring,” he said. “We took advantage of some manufacturers’ year-end sales and purchased several pieces for the Adventure Playground and Sand Playground units.”
The Adventure Playground will total about $100,000 and include climbing rocks, swings, a web climbing structure and a modular structure.
Linda Kostka, MetroParks marketing and development director, said the rest of the project will progress as funding comes in. She said they’re looking for funding through grants, private donations and fundraising efforts, such as the upcoming Mill Creek MetroParks Rib Burn Off on May 18-20.
“We’re looking at a lot of different funding avenues because it is such a large, significant project,” she said.
Avery said the goal is to purchase all the necessary equipment this year and have each phase installed shortly after.
“We don’t want this to be a long, delayed thing where we’re waiting for money to flow in,” he said.
Avery said the next portion of the playground he would like to see erected is the Tot Playground, a $100,000 endeavor that is age-appropriate and includes a tree-house climber, talking tree stumps, log crawls, balance beam, a tree-trunk swing and small climbing rocks.
“The Tot Playground is really exciting,” he said. “It is a really neat, nature-oriented unit.”
Avery said the Sand Playground likely will be funded last. It will cost about $50,000 and include climbing ricks, diggable fossils and turtle-shaped steppingstones.
A fourth section, which Avery said likely will not be funded for quite some time, is a wet playground that will cost about $130,000. He said the wet playground will be made into green space until the park has enough money to build it.
It will include interactive bubblers, sprinklers, geysers, sprayers, streamers and misters.
Kostka said the completed play area will be invaluable to the entire Mahoning Valley, especially the West Side of Youngstown.
“We expect to attract people regionally,” she said. “There’s nothing really like this in the area, and it’s going to be one of those things that makes it great for families.”