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Harrisville Rotary shares plans for multigenerational, inclusive park

The youngest committee member helping to plan a park in Harrisville near Slippery Rock University’s physician assistant studies building on West Prairie Street is 11 years old.

According to Slippery Rock Rotary president Judy Hughes, the unnamed member has a lot to bring to the table: Her insights are much needed to help the Satellite Club of Boyers and Harrisville create a vision for a lively park and playground that serves young and old community members alike, as well as people with disabilities.

“We’re really thinking seriously about the care and (recreation) of the elderly, and those in (nursing) homes ... what they do for exercise, fresh air — what brings them joy,” Hughes said. “This is going to be a park that is also going to address young people, and those with disabilities. So we’re actually getting those parts of the population that don’t get a lot of attention.”

Hughes said the park will be built at the former Har-Mer Elementary School using input from community members across different municipalities, including Clintonville, Grove City and Slippery Rock.

The park would be located within a 10 minute drive of five nursing homes.

Additionally, Hughes said she hoped the park would be good for those who are wheelchair-bound or have intellectual disabilities.

“We know lots of disabled children need these kinds of activities,” she said.

The planning committee, she said, is diverse: its members include people who teach special education, residents who have children with disabilities, as well as the 11-year-old girl.

“You don’t know what you’re missing until you listen to the ideas of a child,” Hughes said.

“(Planning) has been magical,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

The inclusive and multi-generational park is planned to be built sometime in the next three to five years, Hughes said. SRU has already expressed interest in having occupational therapy students assist with the planning.

SRU purchased the former Har-Mer Elementary School in 2015. Before the park opens, the property will have to be subdivided, Hughes said.

Hughes said the cost of the fenced park is estimated to start at $1.7 million, but could be higher. She said she expects the project to be eligible for several grants.

Moving forward, Hughes said the committee will work with a designer.

“We’re going to create a wishlist of what we think is going to be useful, necessary and fun, and then we’ll see what designers can do,” she said.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” she said.

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