'Icing on the cake': Oliverio Park renovations complete, park now open to public

Nov. 16—ASHLAND — A new inclusive playground opened to the public Thursday, bringing equipment for all kids to enjoy.

After years of planning and renovating Oliverio Park on Brown Street in Ashland, the park is now ready for families to visit. Matt Perkins, Ashland's mayor, said kids of all unique abilities now have the opportunity to join their fellow brothers and sisters on the playground.

"We have put millions into our park system and one of the things that our commission is dedicated to was refurbishing, rehabbing and even adding playgrounds that every child has an opportunity to enjoy," Perkins said.

Perkins shared a story about seeing a kid from Elliott County coming off a school bus in a wheelchair that has since stuck with him to this day.

"He whizzed across the field and was able to get on to the playground equipment with his classmates. That to me was the best moment to know that we have helped a child that previously could only watch from the sidelines."

City officials complimented and thanked the employees of the park recreation board and said they have put in hard work to get the Oliverio Park to where it is today.

"I wanted to have our parks department, parks employees, parks superintendent and director all there to cut the ribbon; they have worked their rear-ends off for the last two and a half years to make our parks shine," Perkins said. "They have exceeded our expectations as a commission."

He said the inclusive playground sends a message to future families moving to town that Ashland is here for them.

"We have facilities that are available for them, but not just that we are doing the things to improve the quality of life for our citizens, whether they are here already or going to be here," said the mayor.

"Everywhere you look in our community we have parks; that is unique for a city of our size," he said. "You don't have one park, you have parks all over our city that our citizens can enjoy."

Perkins said citizens have brought this concern up since he has served as a city commissioner.

"Parents with children of special needs have asked since before I was a commissioner, and it fills my heart with joy to see this final piece of our puzzle completed. I am just grateful to our staff and thankful to our citizens to give us the grace to get these things done for them."

Marty Gute, Ashland city commissioner, said it was a great day for the city that has been a long time in the making.

"Oliverio Park has always been a baseball and softball complex and now this added feature of an all-inclusive playground is just icing on the cake. I am thankful to our parks and recreation department for their persistence in getting this done.

"The kids of Ashland are always appreciative and happy for a new playground to come in," Gute added.

(606) 326-2657 — ajohnson@dailyindependent.com