With the overwhelming heat, the new Splash Pad at Earl Thomas Conley Park in West Portsmouth, is the place to go and get cooled off.
Saturday, July 8, the Splash Pad had its dedication of the Pad for Doug Coleman, former Scioto County Commissioner, who passed away in September 2016.
Coleman was instrumental in getting this park and getting it up and running for the kids in Scioto County. Coleman’s wife, Cathy has been a commissioner since his passing. At first, being appointed to replace him, and then she was elected in this past election. This dedication meant so much to her, both for her husband and as a member of the Commissioners. Attending the ceremony, were family, friends, and anyone else who wanted to be a part of it. Cathy couldn’t say enough about how much it mean to her.
Cathy told the first story she remembers about Doug getting the plans of similar parks with Michelle Throckmorton, the Scioto County Regional Planning Director. She said that when they were picking out the fixtures, they were looking at sample parks and Throckmorton pulled out a structure that had three smaller buckets.
Doug years ago had been to the Wolf Lodge with the grandkids, along with Cathy and they had seen that the park had this enormous bucket. He told Throckmorton, “ Oh no, no, no, that will never do, gotta have a big bucket, great big bucket.” Cathy shared that story after they put the big bucket up, after he had passed away. They had the Coleman reunion there at the park.
They had their picture taken there in front of it and they didn’t have the guard up — right now, they have something underneath it to catch the water to make it splash — and she had a terrible fear that the kids would be concussed, when that water hit their head, they’d just be splattered everywhere. They had to finish putting up the splash guard. It was so important to Doug that they put up the biggest bucket that they made.
“You oughta see the size of the bucket, it is perfect, just the size Doug would have wanted,” Kathy said.
Cathy said that the reason the splash park was Doug’s baby and so important to him was anyone who knew Doug personally, knew how much he cared about children. Even where they live and when the grandkids were younger, everyone would gather and call it Nana and Papa’s.
She said Doug could work all day, and literally come home from work exhausted and he would hook up the trailer to the pick-up, throw some bales of straw in the back and tell the kids, “Go get the neighborhood, we’re going on a hayride.” He took them many times like to Copperhead Spider tower and Picnic Point. He just loved kids and being around kids.
Cathy said there was something on Facebook right now from a woman who had an autistic child down at the Splash Pad, and it is the most beautiful story. Apparently on the first day, another woman had her son there who had autism. She was so happy, because for the first time ever, he could run free, play and enjoy. She said that it was one of his happiest days. She couldn’t take her son to the pools because it was too dangerous. Cathy said the she knew that would have made Doug so happy
Cathy was leery about going to the Splash Pad at first without Doug by her side.
“It is a hard time for me still,I thought, ‘Can I do this, can I go down there,’ Cathy said.
However, that anxiety quickly turned to exuberance.
“I want to tell you, I’ve been down there every time I get a chance and I just walk over there and just stand at the fence and watch,” Cathy said. “I can be down or in low spirits, and I watch those kids and they’re squealing and laughing, and it does my heart good, I would recommend that it would encourage anyone, there just needs to be a little joy in their lives to pull in there; whether they have kids or not to walk over there a stand just a moment and it will surely lift their day.
“Doug was the youngest of nine children, he lost four brothers in one year, he had lost others earlier and then there was just his two sisters and himself. They are one of the closest and loving families you’d ever be around They have supported him in everything, his elections and everything. We have a little great nephew and he was at the Splash Pad the other day, and he said, ‘I just love this Splash Pad, my uncle Doug built for me.’ And now, he runs around with a whistle around his neck and blows and says, ‘out of the Splash Pad.’”
There was a huge number of the family at the dedication, Cathy, her son-in-law Scott Bauer, her daughter Tracy and their kids Brooke and Brennan, Doug’s sister and sister in law and a bunch of nieces and nephews, and even great nieces and nephews. Cathy said that they are just overjoyed now. It’s completed and operational and the kids are having a great time.
“We have a lot of little kids in the family now and they’ve been visiting down there all week and want to go every day,” Cathy said. “It was a bittersweet day simply because he wasn’t there and I kept thinking, he would have been thrilled to be there. It was just meant for him to be there. I was looking around at his friends and family and everyone, and he was there, in spirit.
“It was very emotional for me, he’s only been gone for a short time, he passed in September, it’s been almost a year, but for me, it seems like yesterday. It still doesn’t seem real to me. It was a moment of sadness, but complete joy when you see all those kids and friends and family there for him. I explained to the children a little bit about Doug. We gave them all a balloon and at the end of the ceremony, we told them that when we counted to three, we were all gonna release the balloons making it a beautiful ceremony.”
Reach Kimberly Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928