On my first day, I was taken aback when I realized that this oasis existed. To say that I was genuinely surprised would be an understatement. I could not believe that Philadelphia has this large space which so many residents were unaware of. I wanted to get the word out, to get people to come to Awbury and see the great things that the arboretum offers. In my first few months there, every day that I came to work I would see something different. Whether it was a homeschool class participating in an activity outside, a new artist gallery in the Cope House, or exploring a new part of Awbury, there was always something new.
Back when my sons were younger and playing Connie Mack and American Legion Baseball, I spent nearly every evening – most of spring, all of summer, and a good way into fall – at the park, sitting in the snack stand of the baseball field. The park is my favorite place to be deep in the fall, when the leaves have changed and everything is all reds and golds and oranges.
Having Vincentian allows us the opportunity to maintain the fields and grounds in terrific condition and is an overwhelming improvement to the quality of play. The fields are utilized every day throughout our spring and fall season and provide a tremendous sense of team-building and friendships for our youth and a true sense of community for our adults.
In my time at High School Park, I have seen its wildlife diversity and habitat value markedly increase because of this work. Resident birders have reported almost four times the amount of migratory birds using the park now. Fox have been seen roaming the meadow trails and resident hawks are a near-constant presence. This past spring, I spotted a bald eagle in the creek while walking my dog. All this points to greater diversity and better stormwater management in our community.
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.