MANSFIELD — Fred Boll had always hoped to have an outdoor playground at the new home for the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum.

With help from the Mansfield Noon Optimist Club, that new park may become a reality as work continues on the new museum site at 175 W. Third St.

The Noon Optimist Club, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, is about to launch a campaign to raise $100,000 — half of which will go for the playground in the parking lot behind the new museum.

“We have a relationship for quite awhile with Little Buckeye,” said Kevin Zehe, past president of the Noon Optimists and chair of the organization’s Centennial Committee.

“We have a display for Optimists in the old (West Fourth Street) museum. We will have a display in the new one. One of the ways we wanted to give back to the community was to help with the park.”

The Noon Optimist Club, which has about 50 members who meet each Wednesday, will soon start a pledge campaign that will include pledge cards on its website. 

In addition to trying to raise $50,000 for the museum, Zehe said the club would use the remaining donations to fund a scholarship, fund the “adopt-a-child” program and add additional events.

Those wishing to contribute can also call Zehe at 419-566-8361.

Little Buckeye Children's Museum outdoor playground

Boll said the park will be a first for the downtown.

“There is no park for downtown Mansfield,” he said. “Where do kids go to play if you live downtown? There is nothing within walking distance for them.

“It’s always been our intention to build a park along Third Street that goes with the museum and is free to the public. (But) without a sponsor, the park doesn’t happen,” Boll said.

“We are proud to be partnering with them on this kind of a project.”

Like the Children’s Museum, the playground will be an “imagination based” site, according to Boll.

“There will be a small pavilion and picnic area where people can sit and have lunch. It will be fenced for safety and will be open anytime the museum is open.

“There will be several stations within the park for kids to use their imagination. The things inside the museum will be reflected in the park. We are going to make a slide, but it will be built into a hill. To get to use it, kids will need to climb the hill, so it’s more of a natural landscape kind of park,” Boll said.

“There will be some paths and a lot of other things, some noise-making instruments, some photo ops where you can put your head in the picture and make it part of the statue.

“We want kids to use their imaginations in the park just like they do inside the museum,” he said.

Boll said the new site of the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is coming along.

“Building (the museum) during a worldwide pandemic has been very challenging,” he said. “We weren’t planning for that. We have experienced a lot of the increased costs that were not anticipated when this project was put together. Supplies and materials have been slower to arrive.”

Despite the challenges, Boll said, the plan is to have the new museum opening in stages by the end of 2022.

“The pandemic just added to the timeline of all construction. But we are making progress and will be opening by the end of the year,” Boll said.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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