Kent Rotary partners with city to build inclusive playground on Franklin Ave.

Two city organizations partnered together to fund a new addition next to the Kent Recreation Center. Erin Simonek sat down with officials from both groups to find out more on the partnership.

The city of Kent and the Rotary Club has teamed up to build a playground that is accessible to all children.

This playground has swings, musical metal flowers and other features that can be use by children of all abilities.

Kent’s Park and Recreation Director, Kevin Schwartzhoff, says all playgrounds should be handicap accessible.

“The idea is that all children can play together,” Kent’s Park and Recreation Director Kevin Schwartzhoff said. “Children of all abilities can socialize and get physical activity.”

The new playground was the idea of the former Director of Parks and Recreation, but most of the project developed under the direction of Nancy Pizzino, Kent’s Recreation Supervisor. 

The Kent Park and Recreation Department has a summer camp, as well as before and after school programs. Before the new playground was built, children who were part of these programs had to cross the street to play at the playground at Holden Elementary.

This meant having to split up the staff to take groups of children to the playground. This in turn made caring for the children more difficult for staff.

When the playground is not being used by the Parks and Recreation Department’s programs, it is used by children of the neighborhood.

“This play area meets the needs of everyone,” Pizzino said. “Community is very important to me.”

The Parks and Recreation Department wrote a grant to the Rotary Club for funding for the playground. The Rotary Club saw the need for a new playground and approved the funding.

“We said, you know what, we wanted to have a signature project, we want to do something in town,” Kent Rotary Club President Roger Sidoti said.  “We felt that we were doing a lot of projects outside of the area. So that’s why we jumped on it and said this is a good project.”

Nancy Pizzino, Kent’s Recreation Supervisor, was one of the brains behind ensuring an accessible playground for the community.
Roger Sidoti, Kent Rotary Club outgoing President, has worked in education for 40 years and says everything he works for is education driven.

Randy Smith, the Rotary Club’s President-Elect, also is enthusiastic about the project. He has a severely handicapped granddaughter and is happy for a project that benefits children like his granddaughter.

The ADA has strict requirements for what can be considered an accessible playground.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous addition to the camp,” Smith said.

The Rotary Club is donating $10,000 and the Park and Recreation Department is providing the other $25,000 for the project

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club Internationally, according to the Kent Rotary website.

Randy Smith, Kent Rotary Club’s President-Elect, is looking forward to seeing his grandchild utilize the playground.

Although the playground is already open, there will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony this spring.

““It’s kind of funny,” Sidoti said. “It wasn’t supposed to be in until this spring, but because we’ve had such a soft winter, Parks and Rec was able to buy and purchase all the equipment, even though we haven’t been supplied with all the money yet. It’s coming in and so they were able to get a jump on it and actually start getting a lot of the equipment installed, but they haven’t been able to create the whole playground yet. And that includes the landscaping around, it the access points, but the equipment is basically in there. But no one’s been using it yet, as far as I know.”

The new playground is located on the Kent Recreation Center’s property. It is adjacent to Holden Elementary.

Sidoti, Schwartzhoff and others believe the new playground is an exciting addition for children of all abilities, both those of the neighborhood and those who are part of the Park and Recreation Department’s programs.

Erin’s Tweet: Spring is right around the corner for Kent children to enjoy a brand new playground in the area. See how two city groups teamed up to fund this new structure. 

Becky’s Tweet: Kent gets accessible playground.


Erin: package, pictures, graphics, interviews (4 total)

Becky: text story, interviews (2 total)