Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 7 newspaper on Page A1.
COOLVILLE — Federal Hocking Local School District announced a project Monday to build a new playground beside the Coolville Elementary.
Supt. Dave Hanning and Coolville Elementary Principal Mary Mitchell presented the planned project and recognized contributing donors.
Back in May, the Federal Hocking School Board approved the purchase of 2762 Fifth St. in Coolville from the Athens County Land Bank. The district paid $5,000, according to Treasurer Bruce Steenrod, and the land bank paid $10,000 to acquire the property.
The school’s principal said the plan is to demolish two structures — a condemned house and a detached garage — and build a playground on the site. Its official name will be Coolville Elementary Community Park and Playground.
The district has received thousands of dollars from area businesses, with the biggest contribution of $30,000 coming from Holzer Health System.
“It takes a ton of private partnership, it takes our local community, it takes our local business owners, our local elected officials, our local schools to all come together to work on these projects,” said State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), who was in attendance at Monday’s announcement.
Edwards said he hopes to secure more funding for the project.
Officials credited the five-member land bank board for helping with the property acquisition, along with County Assistant Prosecutor Zach Saunders, the Restore Coolville Committee and Federal Hocking buildings and grounds director Pat Tabler.
“When we first started talking about this, it seemed like a dream that probably wasn’t going to happen,” Mitchell said. “It’s really hard to make these things happen. It takes someone with the get-up-and-go, knowing a lot of people, able to make connections — and I can’t say enough for Pat Tabler.”
The land bank is a public entity that acquires properties that are abandoned or tax-foreclosed in hopes of selling the lots for reclamation, rehabilitation and reutilization.
“Back when we were starting the land bank, I tried to get to every school district and Federal Hocking School District was not very happy with us starting a land bank,” said Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel, who also serves on the land bank board. “So this is actually neat that we were able to collaborate with the school district.”
Athens County Treasurer Ric Wasserman also serves on the land bank board and said Monday the project shows the collaborative nature of the land bank.
“It’s a countywide program that focuses on villages and townships and places that have been hit hardest by economic troubles over the last 20 or 30 years,” Wasserman described.
The Restore Coolville Committee was created four years ago and has developed a partnership with the local elementary school.
“We believe that small towns and close communities help families and help reduce crime, and help keep our children from being involved in the wrong element,” said member Anna Burke, and help with “having some pride in their community.”