Young Leaders Institute pitches marketing ideas for Sterkel Park for All

Young Leaders Institute pitches marketing ideas for Sterkel Park for All

MANSFIELD — Cole Eichorn delivered some tough news to the Sterkel Park for All committee Thursday morning.

If they want to appeal to Gen Z, they need to log off of Facebook.

“I don’t use Facebook,” said Eichorn, a sophomore at Lexington High School. “My mom’s a big Facebook person.”

Eichorn presented his advice for raising awareness of the park Thursday during a Young Leaders Institute (YLI) session. He advised posting different types of content on various social media platforms.

“You had me up until ‘appeals to older age groups’ and you listed Facebook,” Michele Giess, superintendent of Richland Newhope, joked after the presentation.

Eichorn and his peers are all members of this year’s Young Leaders Institute (YLI) run by the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce. The program brings together sophomores from across Richland County to focus on leadership skills, community involvement and career exploration.

“We want students to learn more about their home community and hopefully stay involved and maybe make their life in Richland County when they grew up,” said Angie Cirone, the program’s director.

Thursday’s presentations were the culmination of this year’s YLI capstone project. Participants were broken up into groups to complete a presentation and accompanying research report.

“We wanted the students to be able to lend their voice to a community initiative,” Cirone said.

“I really hope that a few from the group stay involved in the Sterkel Park initiative and that the committee is able to use some of the ideas.”

Students propose diverse marketing strategies, events, volunteer group

Students suggested using a mix of digital and print advertising, including more traditional methods like billboards, yard signs and fliers.

All of them recommended active social media pages for the park.

“In reality, all these social media platforms are important because they do target specific age groups,” Giess said to Eichorn.

“Which one do you think in terms of the populations that we are trying to attract to the park is the most efficient to target?”

Eichorn said he believed Instagram would likely have the most diverse audience.

“Kids my age have it and my mom has it,” he told the committee. “If you do TikTok or Snapchat, those are usually just kids my age.”

Liv Penrod of Madison Comprehensive High School said billboards may be even more effective because they’re harder to ignore.

“You could be scrolling through Instagram or TikTok and you can swipe away in two seconds,” she said.

Many of the student groups advised promoting the park with events like concerts, field days, tournaments and movie nights.

Payne Schwartz of Ontario High School recommended the group reach out to daycare centers, pediatricians, churches and schools and ask them to help spread the word.

Others said having a network of volunteers would raise community awareness of the park. Joel Vega, a member of the park committee who lives in the neighborhood, said a former Friends of Sterkel Park group could likely be revived.

“This park in particular has a long history of volunteers,” he said. “For awhile, volunteers mowed the lawn, uprooted trees, things like that.”

Members of the Sterkel Park for All committee said the teens’ input was helpful.

“I think there’s some ideas that we can definitely take and run with, especially if we can get a couple of them to continue with the project post-program, work with us as we’re trying to increase awareness of the park and kind of break down some of the barriers that they identified,” Giess said.

Cirone said she hopes to future YLI cohorts can continue partnering with local non-profits and community initiatives.

“I don’t feel like the community always calls on the youth to give their opinion,” she said. “Hopefully this program can be one way that we hear from the youth and hear what they want to see in the community.”

Sterkel Park for All will feature accessible playground for all ages and abilities

Sterkel Park sits at the end of Hillcrest Street, a dead end road in a residential neighborhood. It’s just a short distance from Newhope’s Raintree residential facility and the YMCA of North Central Ohio.

“It’s behind the trees on the other side of the hill, which makes it a great park experience, but building awareness is tricky,” said Barrett Thomas, another member of the revitalization committee.

When Giess first pitched the idea to Mansfield City Council in 2021, all of the park’s playground equipment was old and some was even broken.

But the $5.4 million revitalization is about more than new playground equipment. It’s about creating a recreational space for people of all ages and abilities.

According to Sterkel Park fundraises, Richland County has 13,000 individuals with disabilities and 23,000 senior citizens who will be able to enjoy the new facilities.

The 20 acre, ADA-compliant park will feature five zones with equipment and opportunities to “enhance a child’s mobility and sensory skills, challenge athletic users, support senior citizen activities and unite families,” according to Community Park for All campaign organizers.

Plans for the park include wheelchair accessible playground equipment, a paved walking path, ADA-compliant restrooms, a pavilion, fitness equipment, ping-pong tables, pickleball courts, a Sky Tower and more.

Construction began last year, but park renovations are being done in phases as fundraising work continues. Giess said she hopes to have the parking lot and primary playground area completed and open to the public by autumn.

Of the $5.4 million needed, $4.3 million has been raised so far.

How can I donate to the park?

Several community organizations and government bodies have donated, but more funding needed to complete the project.

Supporters can donate online by visiting and searching “Sterkel Park Sector.”

To donate by mail, send a check payable to “RCDG-Park Project,” in care of Richland Newhope to 314 Cleveland Ave, Mansfield, Ohio 44902. 

Donations are tax deductible.

Donors thus far include the Family and Children First Council, Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities-Newhope, the Sterkel Foundation, the City of Mansfield, Richland County commissioners, the State of Ohio, the Richard and Arline Landers Foundation, the Ashland County Community Foundation’s Taylor Fund and the Richland County Foundation’s Gross Fund.

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