Reily Twp. residents turned out for several listening sessions to talk about what the township needed to improve active living opportunities. While many ideas were floated, a walking path and improved baseball fields were the priorities. Here, residents are gathered in a picnic shelter at the community center for a session led by Sharon Klein, of the local healthy living coalition. CONTRIBUTED

The Cincinnati Reds are helping this Butler County community repair its baseball fields

Three ball fields behind the Reily Twp. Community Center, the former Reily School, have fallen into disrepair in recent years and trustees have looked at improving them, as well as adding a paved path at the site to give residents a safe place to walk.

With a state route running through the community, having a safe place for kids to ride their bicycles also was part of the plan.

The price tag, however, was a concern.

The Coalition for a Healthy Community, Oxford Area, had a solution. The coalition has been working with grant funding for several years to find ways to get people in the Talawanda School District to be more active with an Active Living grant from Interact for Health, based in Cincinnati.

While healthy eating habits and other health-related concerns are a focus of the coalition, the work has also been looking at ways to simply encourage people to get outside and walk. Coalition coordinators Sharon Klein and Amy Macechko conducted listening sessions in the city and the four townships which make up the school district.

Now, thanks to money from Interact for Health, the Butler County Land Bank and the Cincinnati Reds a two-phase improvement project is in the works.

“Sharon and Amy have gotten behind this thing. It’s going to be really nice,” said Reily Twp. Trustee Tim Miller. “If it was not for them coming up with all the grants, I never would have known where to look.”

He said he spoke to Klein in late 2017 about a walking path and that quickly expanded to ball field improvements as well as purchase of an adjacent dilapidated property, planned to meet future parking needs at the facility.

Miller said there are currently three ball fields on the property, including a small-sized one appropriate for T-ball, but he said plans call for addition of a fourth field.

The improvements will help kids throughout the district because it will increase the number of available fields for Miami Little League, which is going to lose some currently available due to construction at Marshall Elementary.

“Reily came to the coalition and said they heard about the work we were doing and said they wanted a walking path in Reily but they did not have the funds for it. We held two listening sessions with Reily. Interact for Health was at the first one. They had all kinds of ideas. We surveyed the kids in the Reily area and they said what they needed was a safe place to play,” Klein said. “Mary Francis (of Interact) said your group has got to think big and all the synergy is coming together.”

Interact put in a grant of $40,000 with additional grants coming from the Oxford Community Foundation, Butler Rural Electric Cooperative and the coalition’s Thriving Communities funds.

The Reds were interested in helping the ball field project with their Community Fund, set up for that purpose, but all their funds for this year were already committed as the team celebrates 150 years as a professional baseball team.

Klein said they have committed to providing funding next year but will help this year by paying to have a retired team groundskeeper help with refurbishing the existing fields.

“They said they are excited to be part of this project,” Klein said of the Reds contact. “The Reds are impressed. Little League is decreasing in many places but Miami Little League shows numbers increasing significantly. They want to be sure all are included.”

No date has been set but Klein said they are organizing a community park cleanup this spring, such as they did at Merry Day Park two years ago and Leonard Howell Park last spring.

Another thing coming from those listening sessions was the difficulty of communication within the township regarding events and activities. Weak cellphone and internet strength leave many unable to learn about events, so the coalition and trustees worked together to secure a lockable kiosk in front of the community center where notices of events can be posted for all to see.

With anticipated growth in back and more activities likely in the coming years, Reily residents will at least have a place to go to get community information.

Also coming about as part of the community park planning was the purchase of a piece of property at the edge of the community center. Long an eyesore, the property has stood for years, steadily deteriorating. The trustees and coalition worked together to arrange for the township to purchase the property by obtaining funding from the Butler County Land Bank, which works to clean up blighted areas in the county.

“We are able to purchase a piece of property on Sawmill Road. We hope to get it cleaned up and use it for parking when we need more parking, especially with another field,” Miller said, explaining they bought it for $40,000 with the Land Bank paying approximately half the cost and providing a loan for the rest to be paid back over four years. “That will make it easier on us.”

Miller said the trustees hope to be able to help with that increase by providing quality fields for young people to play ball as well as having a place where Reily Twp. residents can gather and take part in healthy activities.

“It’s really coming together great. There has been a lot of interest. I’m surprised at the amount of grant money out there,” Miller said. “I never thought we’d get something like this done. We hope to have baseball in Reily. I would love to see the ball fields being used.”

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