Orrville park pieces coming together

Orrville park pieces coming together
Elizabeth Schuster

Orr Park's Rehm Pavilion just received a new roof and was painted, which was good timing for the Fall Festival, hosted by the city on Saturday, Oct. 24. There will be a car show from 3-6 p.m., food trucks will start at 5 p.m. and there will be live music at Rehm Pavilion at 6 p.m.


Since becoming chair of the Parks and Recreation Department Committee in Orrville earlier this year, city councilman CJ Handwerk has jumped into the role full steam ahead. The pieces are now coming together, with residents seeing improvements in their parks and looking forward to an upcoming Fall Festival on Oct. 24.

“My goal moving forward is to get as much community involvement as possible. We need to work together with the city, Orrville Area Chamber of Commerce, Orrville Development Foundation and other groups like the Lions Club," Handwerk said of his goals for Orrville parks. "All of those groups together would create the needed synergies to generate traffic and more opportunities for small businesses.”

Leveraging community parks is a good strategy for community development. The multitude of benefits provided by parks is extensive: exercise and health benefits, spaces for the community to gather for events, and even habitat for wildlife. In addition, there are economic benefits that can result from improving the quality of life for residents through enhancement of parks, which can help retain the workforce.

“Our park system is unique in that it still has a lot of trees, areas where you can enjoy the outdoors and multiple play areas. So it’s a really great way for people to enjoy the outdoors," said Steve Wheeler, safety service director for the City of Orrville. "Orr Park is a centralized gathering place for our community, so anything we can do to improve the parks is an improvement to the quality of life of our residents.”

The city currently has five parks. Orr Park is the largest, with playgrounds, ball fields, new pickleball courts and Rehm Pavilion for concerts and events. Then there is the city-owned Blackwell property, which currently houses the dog park and has additional land that could be available for future recreational activities. The city also manages Gailey Park in southeast Orrville; the Beaver Street park with a playground and a large grassy area with potential for further investment; and Hilltop, a small neighborhood park with a playground.

With Handwerk leading the charge and working close with the Parks and Recreation Committee, a vision of where to go for Orrville parks has been mapped out. Over the next year, the city is interested in creating a formalized parks and recreation plan that Wheeler described as an effort that would help structure needs and wants of the residents moving forward.

Planning has already begun. Handwerk started with a survey of residents this summer, eliciting feedback around maintenance and future needs of Orrville parks. They got a solid response to the survey, showing residents are overall satisfied with the existing parks in the city. That said, the main feedback was around creating more opportunities for exercises for senior citizens and a desire for additional walking paths.

Next, Handwerk assessed the current status of the city’s existing parks to get a full inventory of needs. He has been coordinating clean-up efforts in some of the parks, and last month there was a successful community clean-up day at Orr Park. To organize the clean-up day, the group worked with the Lions Club, which also provided food. In total, close to 30 people pulled weeds and cleaned up the play structures.

Further, there is interest in seeking ways to build bridges to other efforts across the city. “We do want to use Orr Park as the tie point in the center of the community and then leverage the Rail Trail as the connecting piece to bring it all together,” Handwerk said.

The Heartland Trail, managed by Rails-to-Trails of Wayne County, already is a resource for the community and eventually will even lead to state-wide trail connections.

Another key partner is the Orrville Development Foundation, which recently received a grant from Wayne County Community Foundation for its Gateway project in Orr Park. The Gateway project involves land owned by ODF, the City of Orrville and the Orrville City Schools. These are exactly the type of synergies Handwerk has been encouraging to help bring more resources to Orrville parks.

“The Orr Park Gateway will add 7 acres to the eastern boundary of the park," said Lori Reinbolt, interim executive director of the ODF. "The proximity of the addition will provide access to the Heartland Trail, which has the potential to bring many visitors to the community in the future.”

Fortunately, despite many event cancellations this year, the city was able to organize a Fall Festival. The city will host a Fall Festival at Orr Park on Saturday, Oct. 24. There will be a car show from 3-6 p.m., food trucks will start at 5 p.m. and there will be live music at Rehm Pavilion at 6 p.m.

Rehm Pavilion just received a new roof and was painted, which was good timing for the Fall Festival. The city is working with the county health department on safety precautions for the festival. Refer to the City of Orrville’s social-media outlets for more information.

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