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Memorial park awarded $200k for renovations

An all-inclusive or otherwise accessible playground envisioned for Memorial Park can be built with the city receiving notice it was a recipient of a $200,000 state grant to pay for the bulk of construction, officials said this week.

The proposed playground will have a large rubber base, a merry-go-round with seats enabling those using wheelchairs to access it, and a climbing contraption in the shape of a sphere that also is accessible, said Shawn Washington, city recreation director.

Washington noted how the design fits in with the city master park plan and it would nicely accompany the basketball courts and the Splash Cove swimming pool.

The grant was provided by the Commonwealth Finance Authority and forwarded to that agency through assistance from state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and Jason Fitzgerald, president of Penn Strategies Inc., the city economic development consultant.

Yaw assisted because, while the city is the host, the park is a regional attraction. It will be built by MRC Recreation, a company from New Jersey, and does not require a bid to go out because it is an administration-driven project, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said.

Construction may begin later this year and complete in the spring, officials said.

Jessie Novinger, former recreation director, got the ball rolling after Campana had the playground dismantled by streets and parks department employees earlier this year.

“It was unsafe and posed a liability for the city,” Campana said.

The equipment, installed more than 25 years ago, couldn’t be used by those with various accessibility needs, he said. The bottom flooring was ripped to shreds in places, he added.

To reach a match for the grant, the city intends to use its Community Development Block Grant funds, Campana said.

Stephanie Young, director of community development, noted that would require about $43,000. Those funds are received each year through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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