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City parks to get TLC: Fun spots, environmentally friendly green elements

Proposed Shaw Park Splash Pad.

In a recent online community survey of city and area residents asking them what they felt were priorities the city should pursue, the two top tier answers were public safety and parks and recreation.

“We’re listening,” said Mayor Derek Slaughter, as he spoke about a dozen improvements eyed for the city-owned parks, vowing to give the parks much-deserved tender, loving care on behalf of the taxpayers and other users.

Over the next few months, the city administration will continue to work with the state Department of Community and Natural Resources as it updates the city recreation and open spaces plan.

“We are applying with DCNR for a planning grant to update our comprehensive plan across city for recreation and open spaces,” Slaughter said.

Next year’s schedule will likely allow time for submitting the applications for the funding, but in the interim the city has options, such as agreeing with council to allocate a portion of the nearly $25.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds as part of the COVID-19 relief package on recreation, the mayor and Sander said.

Williamsport Mayor Derek Slaughter talks about the challenges he's faced during an interview with the Sun-Gazette Jan. 19, 2022. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Bring back the fun,

bask in the sun

Among the ideas Slaughter and others are exploring are Splash Parks, a kind of water park without a pool, but with water spray features allowing users to frolic under the refreshing water on a non-slip surface.

Jon Sander, city engineer, said he’s been looking at the companies that manufacture them. In the heat of summer, and for those who can’t afford or can’t swim for some reason, it’s an ideal alternative and addition to the swimming experience.

Splash Parks have been introduced to council, and the concept is expected to be brought before council in the next few weeks and may be discussed by council and the administration as it looks at potential rescue plan funding expenditures in a meeting slated for the end of the month.

One park eyed for the Splash Park concept is Shaw Place Park in the city’s East End section.

Shaw Place Park has plenty of “open space,” Slaughter said.

He also promised to reopen the Memorial Park Pool, which has remained closed since the start of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and because of the need to make permanent water leak fixes and additional repairs last year and throughout this spring in time for the season opening.

Council recently approved a new liner or membrane for the pool and Slaughter had public works department personnel go over the pool area to test the lines with air and determined where the water leaks were occurring and made necessary repairs.

Additional improvements at the pool will be explored such as electrical upgrades, Slaughter said, which have not been done in several years.

Slaughter said, adding ideas that could go before council include eyeing repairs to the Shaw Place Park handball court, the basketball court, baseball field, and a mixed-use field for football and soccer play.

The city previously received a grant for Lose Park allowing for the design specifications that added necessary accessibility improvements and equipment.

The administration is exploring options for Newberry Park, such as a hybrid soccer-football area, he said.

The administration intends to apply for funding regarding Youngs Woods Park and the Brandon Park bandshell is in the design phase with improvements proposed to the physical structure, such as the stage, and accessibility upgrades making the facility more functional and safe for special events, concert-goers and other users and visitors.

When the city is able to secure grants through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, it also can add “green infrastructure” as part of the comprehensive plan, Slaughter said.

“Green infrastructure is basically environmentally friendly, appealing to the eye, and may be able to help the city to meet certain requirements the city has to help clean up municipal storm sewer system management regulations and pollution reduction plan items,” Sander said.

This article is based on a video interview conducted by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, which can be found on the Sun-Gazette’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

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