Our Towns

Austintown Shows Off Park Improvements

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AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Five-year-old Kylie Tunison wasn’t concerned about cutting the ribbon or the thank-yous and handshakes that made their way around the crowd Monday as a new playground at Austintown Township Park officially opened.

No sooner was the ribbon was cut to pieces than she was running around the playground, playing on the newly installed equipment. Her favorite part?

“The swings,” she said shyly.

She’s at the park every day, she added, and the new playground is much better than what it replaced.

And a hundred yards away, people playing pickleball made good use of the new courts, even though the nets weren’t installed. Through the opening ceremony, the rhythm of the ball being served back and forth rarely slowed.

“I started playing it down in Florida,” said Austintown resident Jan Elias. “We used to come out here all the time to play tennis. These new courts are all very nice.”

In addition to the play area and pickleball courts, two new tennis courts and a retaining wall for the splash pad were built at the park as part of a $90,000 improvement project. The work was funded by income from the Westchester Building, home to the township zoning office, the Austintown Senior Center and other offices.

“Since the last time I was here, there have been a lot of improvements. If any kid uses this, it’s great,” said Walter Terlecky. “It looks great and they’ve done a great job with it. And if people from out of town are coming here to use it, even better.”

Terlecky, a real estate developer, donated the Westchester Building to the township in 1997 with the stipulation that its revenues be spent on township improvement projects. As a thank you to Terlecky for donating the building, the play area at the park was named The Terlecky Family Playground.

“For us to be able to do this project any other way, we’d have to go out and get a levy. People would have to pay taxes to be able to do this,” said township Trustee Ken Carano. “Those of us who know Walter, he is so concerned about children that there was no question about what he’d want to do with this money.”

The previous playground was built about 20 years ago according to Trustee Jim Davis and was in dire need of improvements. It wasn’t uncommon, he said, for him and his daughter to see broken swings or slides that had been removed.

“All kinds of great things are happening at this park and many of them are because you have come to us and said. ‘How about this?’ ” said Trustee Rick Stauffer. “We’ve been able to find ways and resources because of the Westchester fund and the Terlecky family.”

Over the past few years, much work has been done at Austintown Township Park. Two dog parks – one for large dogs, the other for small ones – were added, the baseball fields were renovated and new property has been acquired. With all the changes, Carano said, the park is a far cry from what it was when it opened – a largely undeveloped space save for the baseball and softball fields.

Now, a steady stream of people visits the park throughout the day. During the grand opening of the playground alone, cars were constantly stopping at the tennis courts or driving to the back parts of the park for the pavilions and dog park.

“The best part about this is you see all the parents out here with their kids, but [the parents] are all talking to each other,” Carano said. “It’s the intermingling of people in Austintown that makes my heart go pitter-patter.”

Pictured: Rhea and Walter Terlecky, Ken Carano and Rick Stauffer, township trustees; Laura Wolfe, fiscal officer, Jim Davis with his daughter Gabby, and Todd Shaffer, park supervisor.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.