Women take action to improve Kinloch park

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

The faded colors of the jungle gym, the rust on the play fire truck and the broken sliding board all contrast sharply with the cheerful group of kids running through Kinloch Fireman's Park on a sunny afternoon.

The grown-ups in Kinloch hope such a disparity won't be the case for long. They have implemented a plan to fix up, clean up and brighten up the neglected playground.

Leading the charge are Alison Conway and Melanie Nanni. The two mothers in the Lower Burrell neighborhood organized efforts to improve the spot this spring. Since then, the community has rallied around the small park beside the Kinloch Volunteer Fire Department.

A May 9 meeting attracted more than 50 residents eager to discuss how to take action so Kinloch kids would have a place to play for years to come.

“It was really nice that everybody was coming together and they wanted to do something we needed to help the kids,” Conway said.

From that initial response has come a two-day cleanup effort. That project begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday and will take place Wednesday afternoon, as well. Plans include activities such as painting and landscaping. Anyone interested in helping is welcome to attend.

Volunteers are needed to do everything from help with food to share any extra plants they may have growing in their gardens, according to Conway.

Information is available via the Facebook page that she created, “Kinloch Unites for Playground.”

The site, started in late April, quickly gained followers.

In addition, Conway and Nanni found support at city hall, despite the fact that officials had been considering closing the park.

Councilman Rich Callender, head of the parks and recreation commission, attributed the park's sparse use to a lack of upkeep and safety concerns.

“First of all, we need the community involvement to get the park revitalized to the point where people would feel safe to have their kids go down there and play,” he said.

He took note of the enthusiasm of Kinloch residents.

“It's been wonderful. It's come together in a week. We've gotten all these responses. It's great to see people are taking control of their park.”

While Conway planned ways to rally the neighborhood, Nanni enlisted the help of local businesses, successfully securing donations from places such as Sherwin Williams and Wal-Mart.

And the two aren't the only ones who have stepped up to help.

Callender is contacting West Penn Power about getting street lights near the park fixed. That, he said, will “deter shady activities.” The city engineer is looking at installing a guardrail soon to prevent cars from coming off the hill into the park.

Nearby Oakbridge Academy of the Arts designed the fliers that Conway, Nanni and neighbor teens have been distributing throughout Kinloch. Students at the school have offered to design artwork to decorate the park's pavilion and repaint the faded sign at its entrance.

The fire department, which owns the 2 acres of land on which the park sits, has been involved as well.

Neighborhood resident Brian Wagner, who is a professional painter, will repaint the playground equipment.

In the future, she and Nanni would like to see a united organization of Kinloch residents.

They want to seek grants for equipment and additional improvements to the site, which includes the jungle gym, four swings, a half-court for basketball, a picnic table in the pavilion and the broken slide.

For them, it's not just about repairing a small playground. It's about building something greater.

“We're only two people, and I know everybody has something to offer,” Conway said. That's what makes a community.”

Julie E. Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media. Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at724-226-4680 orlhayes@tribweb.com.

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