Construction of new park begins

New initiatives to ìgo green” seem to be cropping up everywhere these days. On campus, green projects span from the creation of an environmental studies department to a trayless Lowry. This spring, students will have an opportunity to take part in another green initiative that will affect not just the Wooster campus, but the surrounding community as well.

Last February, the City of Wooster Parks and Recreation put plans in place to create Oak Hill Park. The park will sit on 100 acres of former farmland that is currently vacant. The property is adjacent to Wooster High School and features a forest along its southern and northeastern boundaries, along with rolling hills that offer great views of the entire site. The site also offers direct access to Oak Hill Road on the eastern side of the property.

According to City of Wooster parks manager Daryl Decker, the 100 acres soon to become Oak Hill Park have been farmed for many years. Not long ago, this area was scheduled to become a development site for 200 new housing units. However, when plans with the expected developer failed to go through, the plans for this area have since changed into a much different project.

ìWhen the developer who had planned the site for building was unable to proceed, the Noble Foundation, chaired by Mr. Dave Noble, stepped in and purchased the property with the intent of keeping it green space,” said Decker. ìOver three years ago now the Noble Foundation began searching for a partner to see the dream of maintaining the land as an open, green, public use space come to fruition. The City of Wooster Parks was eager to explore the potential.”

The location of this area was a critical reason why the City of Wooster was interested in developing this area into a public park.

The park is located at the north end of Wooster, where the most growth is occurring in the city. Not only will the park be located on the north end, but the park will also be next to 200 other acres of public access property though the Wooster City Schools and Freedlander Park.

The overarching goal of the park will be to promote ecological awareness, as well as encouraging green ways of thinking. Decker said that the park will introduce native Ohio trees and shrubs to promote ìa forest for all seasons.”

It will also include eco-friendly designs and natural paintings that community members can observe and then consider using in their own homes. Sections of the Ohio prairie that were once found in this area will be re-introduced in the park. ìOak Hill Park will be a park of the land, not on the land,” said Decker.

Susan Clayton, the Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology and chair of the environmental studies department, said that the focus of the park will be educational as well as environmental. ìThe new park will serve as a resource for educational activities óñ it will focus on creating healthy ecosystems and will utilize sustainable [and low impact] design,” she said.

Designs and plans for the park will be finalized within the next several weeks. The official design phase of the plan will begin next year. Decker said that the parkís first plantings will occur next fall, with the ultimate goal of completing the project by the end of 2011.

However, Decker stressed that other plantings, research and education will be an ongoing process.

While the park will be close to the Wooster High School, the park will offer numerous advantages and opportunities to students at the College as well. In fact, Decker said that the parkís developers will rely on ideas and contributions from Wooster students when shaping their plans. ìThrough the developmental stage students will have the opportunity to become involved in the conceptual ideals and construction of the park,” Decker said.

ìLong term studies and maintenance will offer students from The College of Wooster opportunities to be involved in bringing educational and recreational value to the region for many years to come,” he added.

The project will have meaning for all students who choose to become involved in the parkís development. However, Clayton said that the park will have even greater significance for environmental studies students.

ìI hope that this will be a way for students in environmental studies classes to put some of what theyíre learning into practice,” she said.