City opens bids to work on Brandon Park improvements

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Helen Lorson of Montoursville reacts she watches a butterfly take flight during a butterfly release by SUN Home Health Sevcies in Brandon Park Sunday. The butterfly release is a special time for individuals to come together to remember loved ones with the release of a butterfly. Lorson's husband, Robert, died recently and was cared for by SUN Home Hospice. Proceeds from the releases benefit SUN Home Hospice. Other releases will take place on Saturday at Derry Township Community Park in Lewistown and on July 20 in Keithans Bluebird Gardens in Sunbury. Both will be start at 2 p.m.

Construction on the city’s first “Nature Play,” and the resurfacing of tennis courts — both at Brandon Park — could begin as soon as the weather breaks, city official said Monday.

Several companies bid more than $500,000 in improvements at the park. The bids were opened by Reynolds Construction Management, Inc., Stahl Sheaffer Architect and city officials at City Hall Monday.

Nature Play is the anchor project. It is an area designed for individuals to explore natural elements thriving in the park, said Jessie Novinger, city recreation director.

The location will be northwest of the former pool house, close to the existing children’s playground, and accessible off of Packer and Parkwood streets.

“We want to connect children back to nature elements vs man-made play structures,” Novinger said.

Officials with the National Wildlife Federation agree with the premise popular in city parks.

Standard, cookie-cutter metal and plastic structures that make up the bulk of today’s playgrounds are fine, but they don’t bring children in to see the surrounding landscape and vegetation, according to the federation Website.

Nature Play will have areas that are landscaped and gardens. It can have a playhouse and mounds of rocks to climb on, according to the design by Stahl Sheaffer Landscape Architects of Selinsgrove.

The proposed section will have a garden with perhaps vegetables and fruits that are in season, Novinger said.

Summer day camp students with the city recreation department programs will be one group that can learn in the garden, she said.

Novinger said she anticipates school districts to utilize the park for biology classes.

The bids Reynolds received included alternates to resurface the aged tennis courts on the Brandon Place side of the park.

The resurfacing project includes adding new lights and sidewalks in both project areas.

No city taxpayer dollars are used in the project. The city is using a $250,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, according to the city finance office.

The park, which those taking an online recreation department survey consider a crown jewel of the city — similar to New York’s Central Park –, offers 43 acres of tree-lined canopy. Benches, walking paths and three baseball fields.

It is the host area for the annual Arbor Day Celebration and is overseen by Brandon Park and Shade Tree Commission and the city recreation commission and department. Streets and parks department employees will maintain operation of Nature Play, Novinger said.