Neighborhood efforts in Hutchinson are beginning to bear fruit

Aug 2, 2016

Various community engagement initiatives in Hutchinson are beginning to coalesce neighbors in some fruitful ways.

One of them is taking the form of a new playground to serve the underserved children who live south of Avenue A. Neighborhood resident Amy Raigoza felt so strongly about the lack of safe places for kids to play there that she went to the Hutchinson Community Foundation’s “Unconference” event in March 2015, where Raigoza and others came with visionary ideas for bettering the community.

From there Raigoza’s dream progressed to a “pop-up” play area for one day in George Pyle Park at Avenue B and Popular to demonstrate an interest in and need for a permanent playground. With a grant from the community foundation, the city was able to initiate the project, which is now underway.

Meanwhile, the Hutchinson Recreation Commission has made neighborhood development a primary part of its mission. Under the leadership of director Tony Finlay, Hutch Rec last year took over responsibility for a position that started in the former Reno County Growth Coalition then evolved into community development coordinator at the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce.

Neighborhood Development Director Elizabeth Grilliot has focused working with a few select neighborhoods to improve quality of life in those residential areas. One of those was recognized Tuesday when the “Southwest Bricktown Neighborhood” was officially born by city proclamation. It’s essentially the neighborhood around Avenue A Elementary School.

Besides Grilliot and Hutch Rec, also involved were the United Way of Reno County, Boys and Girls Club, Reno County Health Department, Circles of Hope and Interfaith Housing, all of which partnered to receive a grant last year from the Kansas Health Foundation. The project included a visioning meeting for the neighborhood and the selection of a name for the neighborhood.

Residents appearing before the Hutchinson City Council Tuesday spoke about how residents had become better acquainted through the initiative and been encouraged by efforts to improve their properties.

That neighborhood, too, will see improvements by the expansion and improvement of Ashmeade Park.

These are tangible results of the neighborhood development work going on in Hutchinson. It shows that community improvement happens not just in the macro with something like the Sports Arena project but at the micro level, taking the spirit into the places where people live and play.

By John D. Montgomery

for The Hutchinson News Editorial Board