Greene County park looking for funding to build accessible ball fields

Owen's Place Park in Beavercreek Twp. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Owen's Place Park in Beavercreek Twp. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

A park for adults and children of all abilities is seeking funds to finish a new project.

Owen’s Place Park, located in the park formerly known as Victory Park, is hoping to add one final feature — accessible ball fields.

Gussie Jones, who retired from the Greene County Developmental Disabilities Services in 2015 and has been with the project since its beginning, said the park’s baseball and kickball leagues have become quite popular and thinks making fields more accessible would only grow the following. The fields and adding a new parking lot will cost about $475,000, Jones said.

Owen’s Place is owned by the Beavercreek Twp. Park District and funded by a Greene County Parks and Trails. Jones said over the past five years Greene County Parks and Trails has given $500,000 to the park. Owen’s Place is a 501c(3).

Owen's Place Park in Beavercreek Twp. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Owen's Place Park in Beavercreek Twp. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Jones said Owen’s Place has raised $1.3 million and spent about $1.1 million on building the park and equipment.

Aside from the Greene County Parks and Trails levy funds, Owen’s Place is funded by individual donations, Jones said.

Jones was at the Beavercreek City Council meeting last week to ask for $200,000. She hopes to get on the Beavercreek Twp. Trustees' agenda in the coming weeks and also make a request.

ExploreOwen’s Place opens to the public

Beavercreek City Manager Pete Landrum said currently Beavercreek’s city parks are funded by levies and unable to fully fund all of the city’s park operations, capital and infrastructure issues and will not be able to help Owen’s Place.

Beavercreek contributes to the park in other ways, Landrum said, like maintenance. The city also has a contract to provide maintenance and services for Owen’s Place and Angels Pass.

“We do extra things for them to help, such as digging holes for trees, so we try to work with helping them in other non-financial direct ways. Owen’s Place adds great value to Rotary Park for sure and we want them to succeed and will help where we can at this time,” Landrum said.

Jones encouraged Beavercreek and Beavercreek Twp. residents to reach out to their city or township representatives and encourage them to find financial support for Owen’s Place.

“If we’re going to get these fields done in time for kids to play on them next summer, we need all the help we can get,” she said.

Jones said for the baseball and kickball leagues, Owen’s Place currently rents fields from Rotary Park. But those games are canceled for bad weather. These new fields would have turf and would still be able to be played on after it rains, even with a mobility device.

There would also be a long stretch of paved path added to the area around the fields connecting the fields with the other parts of the park.

John LaRock, the superintendent of the Greene County Developmental Disabilities Board, said there is a “tremendous need” for this in the community.

“This gets adults and children with disabilities out in the community, it gives them an opportunity to play with their peers,” LaRock said. “And having it right here in the community is great. We know that kids learn and grow best by playing. It’s an exceptional opportunity for kids.”

LaRock said communities around the Miami Valley have accessible fields, or “fields of dreams," but having one in Greene County would be a huge asset. The closest such field is near Centerville, Jones said.

The first phase of the park opened in 2013, but Jones said the park had been an idea since 2006. Owen’s Place features a sensory garden, an accessible treehouse and a hillside slide.

The playground equipment has large print, Braille and large print so that anyone can use it. The tree house has a ramp the goes up two stories. There is a spot for watching birds and a spot where people in wheelchairs can look down at the rest of the park.

Owen’s Place was started by Trish Gustafson. Her son, Owen, is who the park is named for. Owen has congenital muscular dystrophy and was 3-years-old when the park was first an idea. He has never walked and is in a wheelchair, but that has never stopped him from playing like his peers, Jones said.

“This mom saw a need in the community and found compassion in other people that made it a reality,” LaRock said.

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