WOOSTER – The three-year Barnes Preserve pavilion project came to a fantastic end at the dedication ceremony April 24 in Wooster, which included an introduction of all the key people who made the pavilion a reality.

“The pavilion puts this park on the map and is the center of the Barnes Preserve experience,” Wayne County Parks Commissioner Carole Van Pelt said.

Handicap-accessible trails will lead from the pavilion to the back of the property, where an observation deck, also handicap-accessible, overlooks a wetland pond.

Van Pelt shared that Dave Kiefer started the Wayne County Park District in 1997 with a vision of creating park options for residents. After two failed levies for financial support, the district received a donation of 76 acres of land from the Wayne County Commissioners, which became Barnes Preserve, named after Van Pelt’s parents.

Van Pelt said she was very grateful for all the dedication and time spent over the last three years in order to finish the construction of the pavilion, especially the funding from the Romich Foundation.

“It was the Romich Foundation that funded over half the cost of the pavilion,” Van Pelt said. “Due to the foundation’s generosity, we all wanted to acknowledge the contribution by naming the structure as the Romich Pavilion.”

Barry Romich, who founded the Romich Foundation in 2005, was pleased to be able to commemorate his parents with the naming of the pavilion.

“We’re generally happy with a low profile, but that hasn’t been working out well in recent weeks with a lot of media coverage of various initiatives,” Romich said.

Romich was also happy with the final product of the pavilion at Barnes Preserve.

“The Barnes Preserve is a great addition to the opportunities for outside experience in Wayne County,” Romich said. “The aspect that we found particularly appealing is the accessibility for people with disabilities.”

The pavilion would not have been completed without the work of Alan Ratliff, owner of Ratliff Custom Homes, Inc., who was the contractor and builder of Romich Pavilion, as well as the efforts of Lisa Followay.

Followay wrote four state grants for funding of the Barnes Preserve project, all of which were accepted and given to the parks commissioners. Followay is the executive director for Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio, a nonprofit group that promotes the health of people with physical disabilities by providing facilities and equipment to allow them to stay active in sports.

Colin Stoll, a Boy Scout with St. Mary’s in Wooster, contacted the parks commissioners to see if he could help with the pavilion construction for his Eagle Scout project. After speaking with Van Pelt, Stoll designed and constructed 9 picnic tables with benches, including handicap-accessible ones. Not only did Stoll, a Scout of 11 years, build the tables himself, but he also procured material donations for completing the tables. It took Stoll, 17, almost 75 hours to complete the project from start to finish.

With the completion of the initial Barnes Preserve projects, the parks commissioners are looking forward to the next phase, which includes installing handicap-accessible trails throughout the property the connect the pavilion and observation deck to the rest of the park, as well as a parking lot outside of the pavilion. The trails will be named after Followay’s son, Casey, who is active in sports despite the physical limitation of being in a wheelchair.

“Casey’s Trails will culminate the last state grant of our project,” Denny Jordan, chairman of the parks commissioners, said.

Casey’s Trails, which the parks commissioners have already established funding for, will connect the various sites across Barnes Preserve, making it one cohesive park where anyone can visit to enjoy all nature has to offer.

Jordan, an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, said the trails construction will start in June and an educational experience is in the works for those interested in learning about the different plant and animal life at Barnes Preserve.

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