The Van Wert County Foundation, along with the Van Wert City Parks Department, will officially open Franklin Park to the public on Saturday, July 21.
The Van Wert County Foundation, along with the Van Wert City Parks Department, will officially open Franklin Park to the public on Saturday, July 21.

VAN WERT – The Van Wert County Foundation, along with the Van Wert City Parks Department, will officially open Franklin Park to the public on Saturday, July 21. This highly anticipated event begins with a private transfer ceremony and ribbon-cutting in the morning.

Following the ceremony, the public is invited to join the celebration at noon when free community activities begin. The first 250 kids (ages 12 and under) will receive a Franklin Park water bucket filled with summer fun.

The YWCA is hosting kids’ activities on the grand lawn, while the YMCA is hosting a basketball shooting contest and beginners pickleball instruction. Jacque Welch with The Van Wert Manor is hosting a community kids book read at the little library location between the playgrounds. The little library is donated by The Van Wert Manor and designed by employees of Alexander & Bebout. Live art on the graffiti panels near the skate park, by artist Dave Lough, will occur in collaboration with Spark Place Making of Fort Wayne, Indiana. CJ’s Shaved Ice will be on site serving up free cool treats. There will also be activities at the new skate park.

Completion of this 1.7-million-dollar community park provides area residents access to several amenities. The park includes a grand lawn, continuous walking loop, pavilion, splash pad, 2-5-year-old playground, 5-12-year-old playground, double pickleball courts, basketball court, and a skate park.

The Pavilion features an outdoor community living room with conversation style seating, men’s, women’s and family restrooms (with close access to the splash pad), and a picnic area to hold up to 100 guests –complete with grills.

Franklin Park’s splash pad engages children with water play. The 2-5-year-old playground and 5-12-year-old playground provides activities for all children – no matter their age or ability. Therapeutic and sensory play stations are integrated into the design. GameTime Playgrounds offered a $47,163 grant to assist with the purchase of the equipment.

The skate park is a skate-of-the-art design and build by Spohn Ranch Skateparks. This modern concrete terrain offers skaters a safe, legal recreation location. The Franklin Park skate park project, led by The Van Wert County Foundation, received a $5,000 grant from The Tony Hawk Foundation.

A double pickleball court and basketball court round out the recreational amenities of the park.

Construction of the park kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony in August 2015. Franklin Park was the brainchild of former Franklin Elementary student and neighborhood kid – Scott Niswonger. It has been brought to life through funding by Scott & Nikki Niswonger, The Van Wert County Foundation, and Van Wert City Parks & Recreation. The Franklin Park Committee consisted of: Honorary Member Scott Niswonger; City Representatives Jay Fleming and Sue Heppeard; Former Van Wert City School Superintendent Ken Amstutz; and Van Wert County Foundation Representatives Seth Baker, Amanda Miller, Michael Gearhart, Chuck Koch, Thad Lichtensteiger, and Bill Purmort. The Design Team consisted of Alexander and Bebout (Sara Zura), General Contractor; Hodgson Douglas, Landscape Architecture services; and John Fisher of Fisher and Associates, Architectural services.

“We led this project because we believe in supporting purpose, inspiring growth, and building the future. This neighborhood needed significant investment. As a community development partner, we committed to this investment long-term. I am humbled to have been a part of a place that is already well loved and will be loved for generations," The Van Wert County Foundation Executive Secretary Seth Baker stated. "However, we are only able to do this because of those who have established endowment funds with us in the past to make this gift possible. We are deeply indebted to our donors for their vision. I wish they could see the joy that exudes from this site – I’m certain they would say it has been worth all the time, effort, and investment!”

For more information on Franklin Park’s opening ceremony or general inquiries, please contact The Van Wert County Foundation at 419-238-1743 or email info@vanwertcountyfoundation.org. To use or reserve the facilities, contact The Van Wert City Parks Department at 419-238-9121.