NEW PARIS — Mayor Kathy Smallwood and other state and local elected officials were present as the Village of New Paris formally unveiled its new splash pad on Friday, Aug. 13.
The splash pad is located in a public park at the corner of North Spring Street and West Walnut Street in the village. Parts were ordered from Rain Drop Products in Ashland, according to Fiscal Officer Amanda Davies, which specializes in sprayground and waterpark equipment.
The splash pad includes a giant tulip that sprays water from above, as well as a frog statue that sprays water from its mouth and a snake which sprays water in different patterns.
The park itself sits on the grounds of a former public school building.
“We’ve been working on this [project] for what seems like forever,” Davies said. “We took possession of the school back in 2011, I believe, and we applied for a couple different rounds of funding to have the building demolished, but we were turned down. Nothing really seemed to fit the bill for anyone’s funding qualifications.”
Susan Laux, Grants Coordinator at Greenville-based civil engineering firm Mote & Associates, was instrumental in finally securing funding, according to Davies.
“After a few trips to Columbus, Susan, along with our last mayor Rick Vanwinkle, met with State Rep. Jeff Rezebek, and he was able to get us $200,000 on the capital bill budget,” Davies said. “We had to match that with our own $200k. We received a very generous anonymous donation of $125,000, and then the village paid the rest.”
Mayor Smallwood referred to Rezebek as the “guest of honor” during Friday’s ceremony.
“They got to Jeff and they told him our sad story,” Smallwood said. “And it was a sad story – we’d been trying everything we could and couldn’t get any help. But Jeff took our sad story and our little petition and walked it straight up to the capitol and got it on the capitol budget.”
Rezebek held back tears as he addressed the crowd about his role in the project.
“I love being a state rep because it’s all about making a difference,” Rezebek said.
Smallwood thanked the project’s anonymous $125k donor as well, referring to them as “our Secret Santa.”
“There really is a Santa Claus,” Smallwood said.
Smallwood also acknowledged Susan Laux for her help securing funding for the splash pad construction and building demolition.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle – you dump the puzzle pieces out in the middle, and you can’t do anything until you get ‘em moved and make some space,” Smallwood said. “So Susan was looking for a way to help us move that bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces out of our way.”
“It’s gone, Susan – yay!” Smallwood said of the old school building, eliciting applause from village residents present.
The park was funded by a combination of a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Land and Water Conservation Fund and matching funds supplied by the village, according to Davies, and also includes a basketball court, and will eventually feature shelters and a walking trail.
“The basketball court was a joint venture with the Park Foundation,” Davies said.
Funding for the park included a $22,000 grant from Timken, a $6,000 grant from The Reid Foundation, and $17,000 in funds provided by the village.
“This project has been an uphill battle, and we are just elated that we are finally making some progress,” Davies said.
Approximately $100,000 worth of playground equipment is expected to be installed in Spring 2022, according to Davies, “as long as everything goes according to plan.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish