Volunteers join forces to improve Oxford park

The picnic shelter at Merry Day Park got a fresh coat of paint as part of the work day at the park which involved community members and Miami athletes in an improvement project. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

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The picnic shelter at Merry Day Park got a fresh coat of paint as part of the work day at the park which involved community members and Miami athletes in an improvement project. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

Beautiful weather and community spirit combined for a large turnout April 8 as a variety of local partners joined forces to improve a park in the northwest part of the city.

Merry Day Park sits on land that was formerly part of the Miami Mobile Home Park but was donated to the city to be used for community purposes. A playground and ball fields were created there but were in need of attention.

A call went out for volunteers to take part in a work day at the park and the invitation drew a wide range of people to help.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the number of athletes from Miami who showed support,” said Casey Wooddell, director of the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department. “We originally contacted Miami to see if we could get 25 athletes, but there must be 50 here. Their initiative is outstanding. They come group by group and ask, ‘What can we do?’ It’s outstanding.”

In addition to his own department and Miami athletes, Wooddell noted help from other community partners — McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital/TriHealth, the Coalition for a Healthy Community, the Oxford Fire Department and Oxford Police Department. Also on hand were members of City Council and other local organizations.

“Everybody is working. They are not just here, they are working,” Wooddell said.

Also on hand was Bob Greiwe, president of GameTime, the firm which provided playground equipment for the park.

Wooddell said they city had purchased the original equipment from the firm and they have donated additional items, including being there that day to install it, with help from some of the volunteers.

Greiwe, who had spent time sitting on the ground under the structure, took a break to talk for a minute and turned over the work of tightening bolts to Miami athletes.

“We put it in about 20 years ago. We gave it some love,” he said. “Today is awesome. I have several swimming team members (working with me). It’s a good volunteer day. We are doing what usually takes two days in two hours.”

Greiwe said GameTime added some additional parts to the play structure several years ago and the work day project included replacing old hardware with stainless steel pieces.

He said he has been with the Harrison company for 30 years and serves as president but still works in sales and installation. He said his son is his apprentice as he scales back his work schedule but does not plan retirement.

“I’ve done this 30 years and I won’t retire soon. I might draw back but I love this, especially days like this,” he said. “It’s a good environment with the volunteers.”

Amy Macechko, from the Coalition for a Healthy Community, was thrilled with the day’s activity and called it “an example of the power of coalition work.”

She had coordinated a group of Miami athletes in preparing a garden at the site and said she plans to make Merry Day Park one of the local spots to plant tulips this fall as part of the coalition’s Plant the Promise effort.

Those tulips are planted each fall so they will bloom in the spring about the time of prom and graduation season as a reminder to area youth to make wise choices as they celebrate and the community’s support for them.

“I am just overjoyed at the community response. This has been a truly awesome example of the community coming together. They saw the need, had a goal and a vision and came out on this beautiful day to do work, engage with members of the community and make a difference,” Macechko said. “This is just the beginning.”

She noted in addition to the work of painting the picnic shelter, completing construction of the playground structure and moving a huge mound of mulch by wheelbarrow around the site, there were also college students involved in playing with young children in a variety of games around the field. She expects that to grow into a regular activity.

“This is one day to do significant improvements to the park, as a whole. I have a vision and commitment with Miami athletes to establish a tradition of Miami athletes engaging in exercise and playing with neighbors in general,” Macechko said. “This is not just a one-day shot. We are establishing something new and beneficial for the everyone.”

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