I and many other Pittsburghers have been lucky enough to grow up with Frick Park in our backyards. As a child I spent nearly every day in the park walking and biking to school, exploring, and playing. I was astounded when I learned that Frick Park draws people in from all over the region and the world.
When Ambrose and I met, it was such a joy to find out how much he liked being in nature. He started to join the hikes and together we found new areas of Fairmount Park to explore. Now, for meditation hikes, he leads the hike portion. It has been great to collaborate with him in that project and also in life (we recently got married at Valley Green Inn). For us, the parks continue to be a source of rejuvenation: a way for us to connect with nature, and with each other.
My active participation at Adams-Ricci Park started when I was appointed to the township recreation board in 1998, after many years of coaching youth sports. By then, we had a community park with a few sports fields, pavilions, and courts. It was a good base, but we needed to grow the park to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community. Two major expansions increased the park to 125 acres and incorporated more sports fields, a great system of walking paths, and pavilions.
New Hanover Community Park happens to be my favorite park in the township. It offers so many activities and amenities, including basketball, baseball, Frisbee golf, hockey, a walking trail, and a fenced-in playground. Dogs are allowed in the park on a leash, which enables me and my dog Max to enjoy the park.
Thankfully, there are multiple individuals with decades’-worth of gardening experience who, quite eagerly, have answered all of my questions. I never knew what I was missing until my very first plants (which were kale, beets, and carrots last year) had sprouted. This joy is available to anyone! In my second year, I’ve been blessed with that same irrefutable joy of witnessing my crops come to life in the soil provided by the garden.
Through a grant from the Keystone Fund, we were able to construct a new playground on higher ground. This means the playground can stay open year round, and also provides new, safer equipment. During the construction, kids in the park would come up to me and thank me for the new playground, saying they couldn’t wait for the grand opening. I received more positive feedback on the playground improvements than any other project I’ve been involved with, and mostly from our youngest residents!
The facilities at Rexroth Park were perfect for our organization’s needs. Volunteer non-profits like us depend on fundraising to maintain our programs at a minimal cost to participants. Rexroth not only supplies great fields for the kids, but also has a concession stand and pavilion that provides a source of income to help support our efforts. In addition, there is a youth-oriented playground, to the delight of our parents, which allows younger brothers and sisters to have some fun during practices in a safe environment.
Last summer our team hosted a class in Hoopes Park for the public and enjoyed some brunch items afterwards, which allowed everyone to spend time enjoying the park and getting to know each other. There are plenty of trees to cool us down and provide some much-needed shade on a humid summer day. We’ve seen that people really look forward to the chance to get out of their offices or homes and into a park for some fresh air and to be a little closer to nature, whether it be for yoga, running, biking, or other activities.
Lazybrook Park has proven to be an amazing venue for the Tunkhannock Rotary Harvest and Wine Festival. This event, held annually in October, has been an extremely successful and popular tradition for local people, in addition to folks from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.
This 111-acre park has three baseball fields, which provide ample space for egg hunts for toddlers through fourth graders. In addition, we are able to use the football fields for crafts, family-friendly games, face painting, and more. The park provides a lush and scenic background for photos with the Easter Bunny as well. Afterwards, kids enjoy time on the large playground that is suitable for small and big kids alike.
It’s not only the sports leagues that use the park every day. I see moms and grandparents at the playground and open field. The Girl Scouts come and work on their craft projects on the picnic tables that the Boy Scouts volunteered to paint to earn their community badges. The 4-H kids shoot off their bottle rockets there. You can set your watch by the group of women that walk the park every morning.
With a master plan in place, efforts turned to a capital campaign to generate funding for the development of the park. With donations from its citizens, businesses, and civic organizations, combined with a matching grant from the Keystone Fund, groundbreaking got underway in 2009.
Latimore Township is predominantly a rural, agricultural area, and the preservation of open, green spaces has been one of the supervisors’ primary goals while in office. The township park is part of that larger plan of caring for the natural environment because it protects a large green space from unwanted development while still providing for public use. Supervisor Woody Myers has taken great care to plant more trees, shrubs, and flowers around the park and has installed several bird houses along the walking trail.
When our students leave Antietam Lake Park at the end of a day of service, they are tired, dirty, and newly inspired. They understand that places like Antietam can show to generation after generation the value of the natural world. Parks can help connect people to the natural spaces around them, and hopefully instill in people an understanding of the need for all of us to be better stewards of the planet we live on.
Our mothers would cook their specialties at home and pack them in their baskets. Dads would bring the horseshoe posts and shoes, the baseball gear, volleyball net, and the badminton net, and set them up for all to play. The kids brought hula hoops, bikes, and bathing suits.
I was one of those volunteers. I was there that very first day, and every day thereafter. The camaraderie, the pride, and the joy of building this park is something I will never forget. Most people who visit this park see it for the beauty that it is today. When I look at it, I still see the old farm field that it was and remember the great times I had working with the great people who were dedicated to completing this project. At the time, we had no idea how much it would impact our small community.
The Keystone Fund has helped the township fund the purchase of the property, create the master plan for the park, and make improvements in the first phase of construction. These improvements included the aforementioned soccer fields, two pavilions, and one of the walking trails, as well as electric service, public water service, and irrigation lines for the fields.
I am a yoga teacher, and I lead yoga walks at Wildwood. The combination of walking and yoga in a natural environment can result in a very special experience! I enjoy introducing people to Wildwood through the yoga walks, and I believe everyone needs to connect with nature for a healthier lifestyle. Leading the meditation at the end of the yoga walks is my favorite part of the activity. Everyone seems so much more at peace!
Along with an estimated 1.1 million annual visitors, I have personally walked, jogged, bicycled, fished, cross-country skied, kayaked, and climbed cliffs in the park. Best of all, I currently help plan and execute large and small infrastructure and maintenance projects. On a lovely day any visitor will encounter people of all ages and backgrounds reveling in the opportunity to be outdoors away from the noise, press, heat, or cold wind of the concrete, asphalt, and steel metropolis.
During a particularly exciting bird walk along the creek with community residents on May 10, 2014 I was amazed by the sheer numbers of migrating songbirds that we were finding– from Worm-eating, Blue-winged, and Bay-breasted Warblers to Gray-cheeked Thrushes and a White-eyed Vireo–when up popped a Red-headed Woodpecker. Our excitement nearly tripled as we got to see this beautiful but rare bird for an extended period of time.