by John Benson
There’s something magical about being 5 years old. Not only is kindergarten looming, but the world is one big playground. Tapping into that youthful curiosity is Brecksville’s Safety Town, which is receiving a $60,000 makeover at Blossom Hill.
The new Safety Town will have 12 buildings that represent the history of Brecksville, said Police Chief William Goodrich.
“It will have a train that children can learn about train safety with and then actually ride around the town,” he said. “There will be a working car wash that will mist the children on hot days. Safety Town will also have a park area the children can drive their cars through as well.”
A rededication ceremony is planned for July 11, after construction of the reimagined Safety Town was slowed this spring by bad weather. Even so, this year’s first program took place June 18-29 with pavement markings and framed buildings in place.
“The funds were raised by donations, a fundraising event and the sale of old traffic signs no longer of use to the city, as well as the sale of two generators from the former VA property,” Goodrich said.
One of the first of its kind in Northeast Ohio, Brecksville’s Safety Town was started in 1972 by Sgt. Russ Loede and Mayor Jack A. Hruby.
One teacher has been there since the beginning.
“Dispatcher Donna Rees, or ‘Miss Donna’ as she is known to the kids, has been involved with Brecksville Safety Town every year it has been in existence,” Goodrich said. “She started out as a teen volunteer and then became the teacher.”
The early-education two-week program targets children entering kindergarten. During two-hour classes, the Brecksville Police Department staff teaches children about a variety of safety topics.
“During the two weeks, they’re taught a variety of age-appropriate safety lessons,” Goodrich said. “Many community helpers are brought to guest speak and help promote a positive relationship with the children.”
The classes have plenty of guest speakers, varying from firefighters and nurses to park rangers and lifeguards. Safety lessons are often followed up with arts and crafts projects, books, videos and exercises.
The true selling point to the children is the miniature town, complete with streets, houses, traffic signs and a working stoplight. The kids learn traffic signs and rules of the road as they drive pedal cars around the town. They can also park their cars and practice pedestrian safety on the town’s sidewalks and crosswalks.
Goodrich said all he has to do is look around the community to see the impact of Safety Town.
“The best answer to that is most everyone, young and old, remembers their Safety Town experience as a fun and positive time,” he said.