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Projects Turn Vacant Lots into Community Parks

Former Chillicothe city council member Pat Patrick, 68, donated property for the city to build a new park with a playground in the Sixth Ward. The lot once housed a garage where her late husband worked on restoring cars.
Rich-Joseph Facun

The roughly 4,000 residents who live in Chillicothe’s 6th Ward are used to having to walk 20 minutes or drive across town if they want to enjoy a park. It’s the only area in the city that lacks one of its own.

That will soon change, thanks in part to a $12,500 AARP Community Challenge grant that is part of a broader pool of donations to build a park at 27 Wade St. in Chillicothe, about 50 miles south of Columbus.

Former city council member Pat Patrick, 68, donated a vacant lot that once housed a garage where her late husband worked on restoring two 1959 Ford Edsels. Now, the space will include a playground where Patrick’s seven grandchildren can play.

“They keep bugging me: ‘Where’s the play equipment?’ ” Patrick says of the children, who are eagerly awaiting the park’s opening this fall.

Chillicothe is one of seven Ohio entities to win 2023 AARP Community Challenge grants—totaling nearly $136,000. Part of AARP’s Livable Communities initiative, the grants fund local projects to improve public spaces, increase transportation options, make streets safer for pedestrians and boost digital connectivity, among other goals.

The grants have an outsize impact on communities for what is a relatively modest investment, says Doug Tayek, AARP Ohio’s associate state director of outreach and advocacy. Projects must be completed by Nov. 30.

Access to food, transit

Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney says neighborhood children voted on the design of the park’s playground equipment, which includes a slide and climbing wall.

The lot will also feature benches and sidewalks to help make outdoor excursions easier for residents of all ages. “Accessibility and walkability are really important to us,” Feeney says.

Another nonprofit is using a $20,000 AARP Community Challenge grant to develop a new park in the city of Warren, in the eastern part of the state. Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership will use its funds to convert a 135-acre property once occupied by an abandoned hospital into a green space with trees, a walking path and lighting.

“This is the first time the space has been open for over 30 years, making it a unique opportunity,” the nonprofit noted in its grant application.

Grant winners also include:

Mary Van Beusekom is a writer living in Minnesota.

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