City moves ahead on inclusive playground grant, eclipse preparations

by Judy Stringer

Nov. 14 city council meeting and workshop

The proposal to construct a fully inclusive playground at Middleton Road Park moves one step closer to realization as Hudson City Council approved an application for project funding through Ohio’s biennial capital budget. 

The city is seeking help with infrastructure and site improvement costs, which are estimated at $1.38 million, and could receive up to two-thirds of that amount from the state with a one-third, or $460,000, city match. A local group called the Hudson Inclusive Playground Committee is raising funds to purchase the play equipment and surface material.

Several residents, including children, spoke in support of the resolution authorizing the grant application.

Megan Higgins, whose daughter, Isabella, was born with a neuromuscular disorder affecting her balance, body awareness and movement, told council that 1,037 students in the Hudson City School District have a disability.

“That is a humongous amount of people in our community that would benefit from a playground of this nature,” Higgins said, “and not only for children, but for every age. This is intergenerational, for seniors to be able to play with their grandchildren on a playground, and it’s not just for people with disabilities, it’s for everyone to play together.”

East Woods student Ella Zielke has a cochlear implant, which has a magnetized outer component that can dislodge and stick to conventional playground equipment like the slides, merry-go-rounds and the chains on swings, “if I am not careful,” she said. When that happens, her mom Angelia Zielke added, “she loses 100% of access to sound in that ear.”

Angelia also explained how the static electricity from plastic slides can interfere with the programming of Ella’s implant and how placement of park amenities like benches can have a profound impact on her and Ella’s ability to communicate with each other while there.

“We’re not arguing that the city doesn’t have good parks and playgrounds; Ella loves most of them. Some of them even have inclusive elements. But there’s not a playground in Hudson or anywhere else in Summit County that’s fully inclusive where all of our children can play together,” she said.

Emmett Schoff, another East Woods student, said an inclusive playground would allow him to play with his little brother, Ellsworth Hills student Owen, who has a visual impairment, and friends “no matter what age or disability [they] have.” His mother Alyson Schoff said the family has had to drive “over an hour” to play at other fully inclusive parks where all three of her sons feel safe and welcomed.

A memo to council from City Manager Thom Sheridan said the grant application would be submitted in February or March with a decision expected summer 2024 for funding in 2025.

Eclipse planning

There will be no formal city event for the April 8 eclipse, according to a brief discussion between council and Hudson Communications Manager Jody Roberts during the Nov. 14 workshop.

The “total eclipse” will pass through Hudson at approximately 3:14 p.m. and darken the city for roughly three minutes and 44 seconds, according to Roberts. In researching other cities in the path of past eclipses, she said traffic backup has been the biggest impact.

“When it starts to happen, people just stop in the streets, and they don’t pull over, they just stop,” she said.

Noting the eclipse timing aligns with afternoon school bussing, Roberts said the district has not decided on whether it will be closed that day or have an early dismissal. In addition, she stated that the city’s safety departments are working with regional agencies to prepare for a possible influx of viewers into local communities.

“We’re also going to be starting a communications campaign, and the campaign is going to be basically ‘Stay home and watch it; stay off the roads,’” she said, adding that the city will provide stay-at-home kits complete with glasses to view the eclipse safely.

Jena Stasik, community relations manager for the city, told council that both Fire/EMS Chief Jerry Varnes and Police Chief Perry Tabak recommended against hosting a special event on that day, which would attract out-of-town viewers.

“Our public safety members remain concerned about the level of staffing and availability of resources, and the parks throughout Hudson do not have an abundance of parking,” Stasik explained.

Council comments suggested they concurred.

“Individual businesses may do something fun,” council member Chris Banweg said, “but the city doesn’t need to amplify anything.”

Upcoming legislation

Council will hear a third reading of and vote on three pieces of legislation at its Nov. 21 meeting, which is past press time.

The first will require all new developments in the city to utilize Hudson Public Power unless they get an exemption from council.

The second is the city’s five-year plan, outlining revenue and spending over the 2024-2028 timeframe. According to the document, the city’s 2024 general fund balance of $17.7 million will fall to $14.1 million in 2028.

The third is the city’s 2024 budget, which includes $32.8 million of general fund expenditures. ∞