ASHLAND – After years of operating in an office room off State Route 60, the Ashland County Park District has a central office location in one of its most-frequented parks.
The park district began moving into the newly constructed visitor center at Freer Field in November, which offers public restrooms from dawn to dusk daily using automatic opening technology. The visitor center also has WiFi, heat and air conditioning as well as houses administration offices, a kitchenette with a refrigerator, an open-air pavilion and a reservable community room for up to 50 people.
The park district will begin accepting reservations Jan. 12 for the community room — $200 per weekday and $250 per day on weekends for private entities, with free reservations for civic and government groups looking to host meetings on weekdays.
While rentals will not begin for another week or so, Ashland County Park District director Stephanie Featheringill said the park district has received at least a dozen serious inquiries for the community room thus far.
The park district levy, first passed in 2016 and again in 2020, funded the new building construction, which occurred throughout 2021 under the management of Illes Architects, Inc. and Classical Construction, Featheringill said.
Previously, the park district’s office was located at the service center on State Route 60.
“We were just one of the office rooms in that building, and we were just in one room — myself and the office manager — and we had one closet,” Featheringill said. “So we quickly outgrew our space.”
The Freer Field site began as a project to provide public restrooms to park goers, Featheringill said, but it grew into a space that now offers restrooms, a central office location for people to ask questions and a community room for gatherings.
Featheringill and an office manager will be at the visitor center during office hours, 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Regarding other staff, the park district also hired a seasonal program naturalist to assist with park programs.
In addition to work throughout the county parks, the program naturalist will use the visitor center for preparation and some programming. The location at Freer Field will allow indoor classroom learning that can easily transition to hands-on outdoor instruction in the nearby woods, Featheringill said.
The park district chose Freer Field, specifically, for the visitor center because of its central location.
"It is our most popular location, really," Featheringill said regarding the county parks. "It's right in Ashland city, where a lot of businesses and residential homes are at, so we're easily accessible.
"If somebody wants to come in and ask a question, or one of the local clubs or businesses want to come have a meeting, then they can do that in the community room and that space. So, we thought it was a very convenient location on many different ends."
Community members can explore the new space on Jan. 15 during an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a ribbon cutting at noon.
Park information will be shared during the event, which will offer live music, food and light refreshments. Weather pending, the park district will have a bonfire, guide hikes and allow sledding.