Prior to the playgrounds reconstruction, Memorial Park was privately run and funded by the community; however after Ginny Favede, president of the Downtown Revitalization Task Force, Amy Roberts, vice president of the Revitalization Task Force and several other supporters campaigned through a park levy, and went door to door and explained to voters of the very slight tax increase, a new playground was in the works.
In 2006, the voters went to the ballots to vote for the new playground.
“We won by a landslide - it was unbelievable,” Favede said, noting that after the levy was passed, the Downtown Revitalization Task Force wanted to put the playground together themselves with the help of many volunteers.
Favede said the best part of the playground is its handicap accessible sidewalks. The story behind this, she said, is truly touching.
Before the reconstruction, the playground was not handicap friendly, and prior to beginning the reconstruction, Favede and others were at the playground waiting for the new equipment and going over certain things.
Belco Works School of Hope had brought students there for the day to play, and Favede watched as they brought a girl off the elevator on a wheelchair and tried several different ways to take her down the steep hills, however, failed. An assistant took her back to the bus and locked her brakes while she sat and watched the other children play.
“It was heartbreaking,” Favede said. “That day, we tore up the plans.”
Although the cost to regrade the steep hills and put in the sidewalks was going to be approximately $25,000, Favede and owner of Hays Landscape Architecture, Gary Hays set out on their next mission to make the handicap accessible sidewalks happen.
Through many efforts, this dream became a reality. The concrete crew at the Belmont County Correctional Center, which is a program that allows inmates to work in the community, was able to construct the sidewalk.
“They came out and did it for $5,000,” Favede said. “It was an enormous amount of work, but the guys wanted to do it right - it really gives them the ability to give back and make a difference.”
According to Favede, Roberts was adamant about including a space net in the playground, and noted that they are very popular among children.
“The St. Clairsville Red Devils play at the baseball field here, and you’ll see the kids just sitting on the space net watching the game,” Favede said. “The kids love it, I love it.”
Favede said the decision to bring the space net in was to be able to bring something different and unique to the community.
“We wanted to give people a reason to come to our park versus the parks they’ve been going to before,” Favede said.
Although the reconstruction took one year to get started and nearly a month to put in place, but after finally completed, Favede was glad to honor the play area as “A playground for every child.”
“Children are so, so important and giving them a safe place to play and families a place to come and spend time with their children is the basis of every community,” Favede said. “We just wanted to create a safe environment.”
Favede said it is truly a delight to see children playing and mothers smiling and sincerely hopes joy will be brought to the community through this park.
“So many people were involved in this reconstruction, and this park belongs, not only, to Richland Township, but to everyone in the county.”
ALL?SMILES are a group of children at the ribbon cutting of Memorial Park in St. Clairsville.