So. Solon teen aims to improve town park

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Matt Adkins hopes to hit a homerun with the new South Solon Community Park Association, which aims to raise money to make repairs and improvements to the park. One project will be restoration of the ball field and backstop.

A young man with a plan wants to affect change in his community.

Matt Adkins, 17, is spearheading efforts to raise money to improve South Solon Park.

“In 2006, I went to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar at Denison University in Granville,” said Adkins, who will be a senior at Madison-Plains High School this fall.

“They encouraged us to take on leadership roles in our community. I was eager to come home and volunteer. I thought about what I could do, and our park definitely needs help.”

Adkins, who lives with his family just a couple of blocks from the park, approached South Solon Village Council earlier this year about forming a committee to address the park’s needs and raise money.

“We’re on a limited budget, like other small communities. We’ve been so focused on the new sewer plant, there’s no money to do major repairs at the park,” said Councilwoman Eileen Coil.

Council gave Adkins its blessing to put together a group to operate as a private entity separate from council.

“I’m so happy to see a young person getting involved,” said Coil, who decided to join the group, which has been named the South Solon Community Park Association.

In addition to Coil, Adkins is joined by his father Tim, his sister Erin, and South Solon Village Administrator Shane Bexfield. Other residents have attended the group’s meetings, as well.

The park, located on High Street, has a slide, monkey bars and a swing set. Recently, new swing seats were purchased and the shelter house roof was painted.

“In recent years, the merry-go-round, four teeter-totters, a set of hanging hand rings and a hanging swing bar have been torn down and removed from the park due to decay and becoming dangerous,” Adkins said.

The association has talked about several ideas for replacing that equipment and making other improvements and repairs. The possibilities include:

• a new jungle gym, to give children more play equipment;

• improvements to the baseball diamond, which has sunk about eight inches from its original level and is weedy;

• repair of the baseball field backstop (the wood is rotting and the fencing is rusted);

• installation of new benches and fencing around the ball field;

• replacement of the shelter house roof, which leaks; and

• construction of new rest rooms, because the old ones have been torn down.

Other ideas the group has tossed around include relocation of the park’s horseshoe pits, creation of a walking path, installation of a pond, construction of a second ball diamond, and purchase of adjacent property to expand the park.

“Obviously, this isn’t a little 12-month project. It will take time,” Coil said.

“Park equipment today, just like everything, is very expensive,” Adkins added. “We want to fix up our park in several phases (as money comes in).”

For one of their first major projects, the group is looking into a medium-sized jungle gym, which would be 10×20 feet wide and 10-feet high. The cost is $20,000. The structure would include a fort at the top, a climbing ramp, slide, and places to swing.

The association did its first bit of fundraising by participating in the South Solon Memorial Day parade and asking for donations. They raised $500, which served as seed money to open an account at Chase Bank in Mount Sterling.

Anyone can make a donation to the fund; checks should be made payable to the South Solon Community Park Association and sent to the bank, 47 N. London St., Mount Sterling, Ohio 43143, or the South Solon Town Office, South Solon, Ohio 43153.

The next fundraiser will be dinner at the park from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 21. Residents are invited to enjoy sub sandwiches and other goodies.

“We hope people will come and strike up a discussion about what we can do with the park,” Coil said.

In addition to holding special events, the group plans to approach businesses for donations. The money will go into the bank account, where it will accumulate until the association has enough to complete a project or put up matching funds for grants. The association also welcomes donations of materials or services.

“For example, maybe a fencing company would like to donate the fence for the baseball field or offer to put it up,” Adkins said.

For more information about the South Solon Community Park Association, call Matt Adkins at 937-925-6579 or Shane Bexfield at the South Solon village offices at 937-883-2151.

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