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Volunteers join together to make playground a reality in Clairton

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 10:58 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Lisa Baier and Bailey Loveday of Clairton carry mulch past fellow volunteers during Saturday's Kaboom! playground building day in the city's Wilson section.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Russ Moskal, foreground, and Graig Tomich, left, of Koppers work with Ron Edwards of West Mifflin to build a park bench during Saturday's Kaboom! playground building event in Clairton.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Father-and-son team Kevin and Julian Nowlin of Verona volunteered with PNC staff as part of the Kaboom! playground project in Clairton on Saturday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Liz Heigenreich of Bloomfield and Courtney Werbil, who participate in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, spend their Saturday painting wooden tiles to frame the new Kaboom! playground in Clairton.

Clairton's new recreation area exploded with activity Saturday as more than 100 volunteers built a KaBOOM! playground at the intersection of Division Avenue and N. Third Street.

Warm weather and bright sunshine accompanied crews as they mixed and poured 20,000 pounds of concrete, moved 160 cubic yards of mulch, installed swings, monkey bars, slides, benches and a replica fire truck for children to explore.

Children painted squares that will be used as part of a wall mural, and fashioned the links of a paper ribbon for the grand opening ceremony.

“It's really nice to see everybody coming together and helping out,” 11-year-old Alyssa Natter said. “This is going to be a real nice one, and I think everybody will enjoy it, from all kids of ages. It's really helpful to see this, and all the children will think that one day they'll do something like this. Probably the slides and the monkey bars are my two favorites.”

The former Third Street Playground, which the Clairton Volunteer Fire Department acquired from Clairton City School District about 12 years ago, had been used mostly for basketball.

Fire Chief John Lattanzi submitted an application for the playground when the city's first KaBOOM! playground was built in the Southside development along Reed Street several years ago.

“It makes me feel great,” Lattanzi said. “I've waited so long for this, We're more than a fire company. We do things for the community.”

Lattanzi said he is confident that neighborhood residents will take care of the new facility.

“They have children,” he said, “and they're happy to have this playground for the children. They said they will keep an eye on it.”

PJ Chonko, 12, who lives across from the new playground, said he enjoys the facility at Clairton Park playground but is happy to have one near his back yard.

“I'm going to be on this every chance I get because I'm like a monkey, completely,” PJ said. “I love doing all this kind of stuff. I think it's pretty cool that everyone's helping out. I'm glad Clairton's getting something new in here because I know we need some new stuff.”

Chat Licht, 7, and his sister Emma Licht, 5, said they participated by getting snacks for the workers and making crafts.

Lattanzi said the fire department will own and maintain the facility, but may consider transferring it to the city.

Lattanzi said the department plans to install security cameras.

“Folks are very excited for the transformation they see taking place here, not just for the park and the playground, but what it represents for the community,” KaBOOM! project manager Josh Carlson said. “We're hoping to transcend the idea of just building a playground. This is going to represent something much larger for the community, a safe place for kids in the neighborhood.”

School district superintendent Wayde Killmeyer said he envisions using the playground as a reward for younger students who do well in their classes.

“During the day it would be fairly empty except for very young kids who aren't in school,” Killmeyer said. “Even more than that, we have an obesity crisis our country. Having a place like this in the community where kids can play outside is just good mental health, good physical health, just all-around good for the community.”

Clairton Unity Group and the Heinz Endowments are among the project's sponsors.

KaBOOM! associate community outreach coordinator Sally Dorman said The Heinz Endowments committed to building 10 playgrounds in the Pittsburgh area in the next two years.

Dorman said Clairton spent $8,500 for materials.

Other contributors are United Rental Services, Mickey Plavchak Construction, Koppers, Giant Eagle, Shop ‘n Save, PNC Bank, U.S. Steel Corp., Terrace Gardens, Deejay John Williams, Masonic Lodge 714, Clairton Chamber of Commerce, Magisterial District Judge Armand A. Martin, Clairton public works and anonymous individuals.

Clairton EMS was on hand as a safety precaution, and also provided food.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or

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