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Recycled resources to establish inclusive playground in BG

Park Concept – Graphic via Landscape Structures, Wood County Plays

Old tires recycled to rubber surfacing will create the base of Carter Park’s new inclusive playground.

Bowling Green Mayor Mike Aspacher had the opportunity to apply for the Recycling and Litter Prevention Tire Scrap Tire Grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to assist with project funds when city council passed Resolution 3815.

Wood County has partnered with Wood County Plays, a non-profit organization that creates an inclusive playground that promotes communication, empathy, learning and understanding for children. They are currently fundraising $575,000 online to complete this project.

The city has been allocated $7.3 million from the American Rescue Act Plan where $100,000 of which was given to support the Inclusive playground and Wood County Plays. 

Some features that make this playground inclusive include: a 5-foot high artificial turf hillside covered in slides, a wheelchair-accessible log for kids to explore and a 7-foot high climbing course.

Bowling Green Sustainability and Public Outreach Coordinator Amanda Gamby explained how rubber surfacing is key to making the playground fully accessible. 

“A big component of that is a poured in place rubber surface, and that has quite a few purposes, one for accessibility, so folks in wheelchairs or with mobility devices can easily access the equipment,” Gamby said. “But, it also has some components in terms of the coloring that’s used to provide safe spaces for folks who are visually impaired.” 

The rubber surfacing used for the playground is expensive, making up almost half of the total cost, but park officials say it is essential to make the playground fully accessible. 

“For this project, in particular, it’s a grassroots effort. It’s a non-profit that is partnering with us on this project, so the total project is going to cost well over $500,000,” Gamby said. “They’re currently fundraising to be able to cover the cost of that. Just to install this surface, the estimates are over $200,000, so if we can get this grant, it’ll cover half of the cost of it.” 

As of Mar. 15, Wood County Plays has raised $310,000 of their $575,000 goal through online fundraising. It was last updated on Jan. 23, according to their website. In hopes of assisting with the cost of the rubber surfacing, Aspacher will apply for the Scrap Tire Grant.

During the city council meeting, BG Public Works Director, Brian Craft, mentioned the project’s timeline, saying, “We got the Carter Park Playground project happening, this summer, early fall.” 

There are four different grants available under the Recycling and Litter Prevention program: the Academic Institution Grant, the Community Recycling Grant, the Market Development Grant and the Scrap Tire Grant.

More specifically, the Scrap Tire Grant is available for businesses, local governments and nonprofits to establish or expand scrap tire processing and product manufacturing. Those who apply can get up to $300,000 with 100% match,  businesses are required to have a government sponsor and grantees have 24 months to complete the project. 

The grant was announced by the Ohio EPA on Dec. 30, 2021, and the application deadline was Feb. 4, 2022 at 3 p.m.

Officials say this grant will provide opportunities for local governments, private businesses, nonprofit organizations and schools, with the main goal being to create and use recycling and litter prevention programs. 

Using recycled tires to create the playground flooring makes the city eligible for the grant, and it is what many hope will lead them to obtain the grant.

“(Rubber surfacing) can actually be made out of recycled tires or recycled rubber from the tires, so we are applying for a grant that would help pay for that installation and the material to have that surfacing installed,” Gamby said. 

Carter Park is due for new playground equipment and in a good location, according to BG Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley, making it a good spot for the home of the inclusive playground. 

“Carter Park is in a great location there, by I-75, by the university. In terms of partnerships and things, we talked about getting some student groups involved that work with education, in terms of intervention teachers and stuff like that,” Otley said. “Just a number of partnerships, that location would really serve well. There are a lot of tournaments that come in the summertime, that come to use the ball diamond and stuff, so it would really get a lot of exposure, as well.”

Although, the construction of this new playground will only affect the current play equipment, “there is a point where that will have to get removed so, there won’t be play equipment until the new play equipment goes in. It’s going in on the same general footprint of where the current play equipment is,” Otley said.

It is the keyway for businesses and individuals to reduce the waste they generate and it’s negative impact.

The Solid Waste Management Planning was created by the Ohio EPA to oversee 52 solid waste management districts, one of which being Wood County.

These district’s main purpose is to provide Ohioans with opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste.

Since 1995 Wood County’s Solid Waste Management has obtained nearly $3 million in state-level grant funding to support local recycling and waste reduction programs by working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention.

If Bowling Green obtains this grant, Gamby explains it as a win-win situation, “because we then get to further educate the community, not only on the importance of inclusivity and how awesome this playground is going to be, but we get to also say this project recycled tires,” Gamby said.

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