Canfield playground accommodates those with disabilities

By Jordyn Grzelewski


A long-awaited playground designed for individuals with special needs is officially open to the community.

Walnut Grove, the organization that led the effort to build the playground, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening for what is now named the Hine Memorial Fund Playground located at 8800 Columbiana-Canfield Road.

“This playground is unique because it is what we call an inclusive playground,” said Shellie Duchek, Walnut Grove board president. “We’re excited. We’ve worked really hard to see kids play on this.” The playground is designed to be accessible to all ability levels. For example, one piece of equipment, similar to a see-saw, is designed so someone who uses a wheelchair can easily transfer to the seat.

Ramps are featured in the design, too, so wheelchairs can get to each piece of equipment.

Andrea Smesko of Canfield said she is excited about the playground because she will be able to bring her 10-year-old son, who has gross motor delays and sensory issues, to play there, along with his siblings.

“With all the sensory options on the playground, he’s really going to enjoy those options,” she said. “We’re just super excited for it to open.”

Duchek said what visitors can now experience at the 20-acre site is just the beginning. There are plans to add swings, a zip line, a sand pit and more.

Aiding in that expansion will be a $500,000 donation from the Hine Memorial Fund, which previously donated $250,000 to the project.

Friday’s ceremony featured a check presentation from the charitable foundation to Walnut Grove.

Walnut Grove was established in 2013, and construction on the playground began last year. Duchek said she hopes to complete the project later this year. Walnut Grove needs to raise approximately $400,000, she said.

So far, $1 million has been invested in the project. In addition to the playground, the site features natural wetlands, a pond, hiking and biking trails, and access to the Mill Creek MetroParks Bikeway.

Duchek said she believes the addition of the playground to the community will be “life changing” for many families.

“Currently, these families are driving an hour away” for inclusive playgrounds, she said. “Now it’s in their backyard.”

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