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Jewett Park in Akron receives makeover from community

Volunteers build a playground
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
Volunteers are building a playground at Jewett Park as part of its renovation.

Community members are giving a park in Akron a major makeover this week. Jewett Park, in the city’s Middlebury neighborhood, is a recipient of an Akron Parks Challenge grant.

Playground equipment being put together in Jewett Park
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
Volunteers put together playground equipment.

Jewett Park had been neglected and underutilized for at least several decades before community members started working on a plan to transform it. Around 70 volunteers are working this week to build a new playground and set up new raised garden beds.

Bridget Ambrisco is director of the Akron Parks Collaborative, which helps communities revitalize their shared outdoor spaces.

"I guess the word that comes to mind is inspiring," Ambrisco said, "just to have all these people come out and completely redo their park, transform it."

The new park was designed by the Middlebury neighborhood. L.I.N.K.S. Community and Family Services organized engagement with the community, getting feedback on what community members want from the park and what they would be likely to use. The process included talking to children about how they wanted to play in the park.

Derek Kuryla is the landscape architect working with the community to make their vision a reality.

"They were pretty direct. They knew what they wanted. We have little space to work with, so they knew they wanted to get a few different elements incorporated," Kuryla said. "So they were very instrumental and informative right off the bat, where they wanted things to go and what they wanted to have in the park."

The back of the park
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
Volunteers work to makeover the back of the park, which will include raised garden beds, a pavilion, a paved walking trail and a perennial garden.

The renovated park will include a new, accessible entrance with a seating area, bike racks and a bike repair station, pavilions, a new walking path and an updated playground.

Pastor Yolanda Parker is the executive director of L.I.N.K.S. and the driving force behind the renovation. She held monthly meetings to get residents' feedback and ideas.

"Our goal was not to come in here and put our ideals in," Parker said, "but get the residents ideals in regards to what they would want in a green space."

Volunteers build a swing set at Jewett Park
Abigail Bottar
/
Ideastream Public Media
Kia Painter assists in building a swing set.

Fran Sutter, 75, has lived in Middlebury for 67 years. She’s excited for people to have a space that meets their needs.

“Now it’s going to be useful for the entire neighborhood, for all the community, all ages," Sutter said.

Sutter said the park used to be inaccessible for seniors and others with mobility issues. She's excited to be able to utilize the paved walking path.

Kia Painter, a volunteer working at the park with L.I.N.K.S., said the park will represent a big change for the community.

"They’re going to have something really nice that represents the love and support they really all have for each other,” she said.

Lynn Clark, another volunteer, hopes the park will bring a sense of community to the neighborhood.

"Rather than being a bunch of individuals living in individual houses that they actual create this sense that this is my park, this is my community, I can live here," Clark said.

Parker is most excited for families and children to utilize the park.

"The children will have a spot that's safe," Parker said. "That's what I'm hoping, that people come in and see that it's a safe place for both families and children."

Akron Parks Collaborative has helped several parks in the city undergo renovations. Jewett Park is one of two recipients of funding in this round of grants.

“I mean it’s just a complete makeover, complete transformation," Ambrisco said. "This will be our sixth challenge park that we’ve done, all amazing projects. But this, to me, is the biggest transformation of all of them.”

In addition to the $100,000 grant, funding is also coming from Summit County Public Health, Summa Health and the community. The park will be officially unveiled Saturday at a community picnic.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.