Export park would showcase mining history, include 'natural' playground amenities
Export's planned J.M. Hall Jr. Community Park could include bocce courts, an amphitheater and a nod to the area's coal mining past.
"I think it's going to be a great opportunity to showcase that history through this park," said Jim Pashek, of Pashek+MTR in Pittsburgh, who this week unveiled concept drawings for the 15-acre property donated to the borough by Joseph M. Hall Jr. , the late Murrysville councilman and owner of J.M. Enterprises.
Those plans, which were paid for with a $15,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, also include paved walkways, a hiking trail, a mural wall and a grove of black locust trees.
A prominent feature could include cutting into part of the hillside to create a mock mine entrance near where the Westmoreland Coal Co. once operated.
Westmoreland Coal began mining in Westmoreland County in 1854. Today, it is North America's sixth-largest coal producer, according to the website of the now Colorado-based company .
If everything included in the park master plan unanimously adopted by Export council members were to be built, the final price tag could reach $2.2 million, Pashek said. Borough officials said they plan to seek grants from the DCNR and the state Department of Community and Economic Development to help with the cost.
The project to develop the property just east of Garfield Street would be phased in over several years. Pashek proposed a natural buffer, bike racks, entrance signs, interpretive historic panels, benches, shade trees, restrooms, picnic tables, some paved walkways and other design requirements in a first phase, which would cost roughly $600,000 — with restrooms accounting for a third of that.
The design of playground-type equipment for children would follow the natural layout of the land and incorporate "natural-type" amenities as opposed to pre-fabricated standard playground features, Pashek said.
"It's a little overwhelming for a community this size to take on this type of project, but I think it's exciting," Councilwoman Melanie Litz said. "I think it's going to be a real gem for the area. ... We can tie the (Westmoreland Heritage Trail) into it, and it accomplishes what I think Junior Hall intended for that property."
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.