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Donations help reopen Arnold's Roosevelt Park

| Saturday, June 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch
Daunte Ross, 12, (left), Westley Logan Maloney, 8, and Brazil Lee, all of Arnold, play in the alley behind Roosevelt Park, which is scheduled to open for the summer on Saturday, June 15, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Arnold city worker Justin Cratty does last minute trimming along the fence line at the entrance to Roosevelt Park on Friday, June 14, 2013, in preparation for the park's summer opening.
Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch
The gates to Roosevelt Park in Arnold are scheduled to be unlocked for the summer on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Arnold's Roosevelt Park will open today for the summer, thanks to community donations and fundraisers.

Mayor Larry Milito and Councilman Ron Hopkins said more than $6,000 in donations will pay for park supervisors to monitor the facility most afternoons this summer.

Due to past vandalism and behavior problems at the park, Arnold officials won't open the facility unless there are experienced monitors on site.

The city wants to protect the investment it has made in recent years with several park improvements using federal Community Development Block Grant money.

With the city's financial constraints, council wasn't able to budget money toward park supervisors this summer. Hopkins, who oversees the city's parks, said Roosevelt wasn't open much last year, except when there were planned events.

“We're very fortunate people stepped up to the plate,” Hopkins said. “The fundraising was tremendous.”

The New Ken/Arnold Social in the Park group played a big role in getting Roosevelt Park open.

Having raised money for New Kensington's Memorial Park since 2011 when they began holding socials there, the group turned an eye toward Roosevelt when members heard the Arnold park couldn't open.

Although many Social in the Park members no longer live in the two cities, organizer Cindy Downard of Lower Burrell said they have fond memories of playing at both parks as children.

In May, the group hosted Rockin' Roosevelt, a benefit concert with about eight performers plus food vendors and other entertainment.

“The event was a success,” said Lou Downard, Cindy's husband. “We hope to continue it next year.”

With more than 600 tickets sold and money collected from raffles, the Social in the Park group was able to donate $4,351 to the city.

Milito said the Lions Club donated an additional $2,000 and several other donations came in.

“We thank them all for their generous offering,” Milito said.

Hopkins said the tentative plan is to open the park five days a week from 1 to 8 p.m.

Initially, the park will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to allow for grass cutting and other maintenance. The closure also will allow the city to stretch the budget and hopefully keep the park open until school starts, Hopkins said.

He said the city will start with two monitors who have worked at the park previously, have state and federal clearances allowing them to work with children and have first aid certification.

If attendance dwindles during the hot “dog days” of summer or demand changes, Hopkins said the city may close the park more often or otherwise adjust the schedule to keep it open into the fall.

Hopkins said the Rockin' Roosevelt event and other fundraisers may be the city's long-term solution for keeping the park open and staffed.

Hopkins told the Downards and several other Social in the Park volunteers who presented a ceremonial check to council this week: “We couldn't have done it without you.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or .

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