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North Canton Community News

Posted on: February 1, 2023

City of North Canton's Possibility Playground is the 2022 OPRA Governor's Award Winner

New Inclusive Playground at Dogwood Park Wins 13th Annual Governor's Award Presented by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) on January 31, 2023.

Press Release and Photos Courtesy of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

The City of North Canton’s Possibility Playground at Dogwood Park is the winner of the 13th Annual Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation presented by Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

“Parks and recreation is for everyone,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward.  “This project really underscores that. The City of North Canton responded to a request from the community to improve the quality of life for residents there. As a result, they not only created an amazing space, but they found ways to connect people with special needs to other community resources. It really is what parks and recreation is all about!”

Dogwood Park OPRA Photo

Possibility Playground is the first newly developed playground for the city in over 20 years. It is a thoughtfully executed, fully inclusive, accessible-to-all play space, allowing families and caregivers with children of all abilities to play together. This new development bridged the gap that existed for inclusivity in the community and provides a new and exciting sought-out destination playground for not only the children in the community but visitors from many surrounding areas.

This project had its roots in a phone call from a resident in 2017, asking if the city had any accessible play equipment for their special needs child who was wheelchair bound. City staff realized they only had one accessible swing in one of the nine parks. Also, all parks had wood mulch surfacing, so none were accessible to individuals utilizing mobility devices such as canes, crutches, or wheelchairs. Another issue that had been identified was the that no parks were fenced in for safety.  This caused the city to begin the process of planning for an all-access playground.

The project was funded by many donations including support from local businesses and organizations with a mission of supporting individuals with disabilities. Some have even provided programming at the park like job and life training for special needs persons and a large annual “Buddy Walk” for people impacted by Down’s Syndrome. Many young adult day care facilities also use and support the playground, which is unique to the area.

The best proof of success is the large number of children, families, and caregivers that travel from within and outside North Canton to use this park. The park has quickly gained a reputation as a well-designed and welcoming, fun place for children of all ages and abilities.

The Governor’s Award was established in 2010 to recognize the one park and recreation project, program, or event that has had the most significant impact on quality of life in the preceding year.  The award winner was announced and the award presented at the OPRA Annual Conference and Trade Show on January 31st.

All thirteen winners of OPRA program and project awards were considered for this statewide “best in show” award.

Officials from nine statewide organizations formed the voting panel for the 2022 award.  They judged the project, program, and event winners based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated impact of the project, program, or event on the community quality of life;
  • The project, program, or event is unique/innovative or presents a new way of doing something;
  • The project, program, or event addresses a felt need in the community and includes clear goals which are achieved; and,
  • The project, program, or event is utilized by the community and outcomes can be demonstrated.

In addition to the Governor’s Award trophy, the department received a proclamation from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and a $500 contribution from OPRA. 

City staff and key project contributors accept the OPRA Governors Award on January 31, 2023.

City representatives and key project contributors accept the OPRA Governor's Award trophy and proclamation at the awards ceremony on January 31, 2023. 

The Possibility Playground at Dogwood Park was also awarded first place for 2022 OPRA Capital Improvement Projects in the $1-2.5 million dollar range. 

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