Little Knights Kingdom could come to an end
By Brad Pedersen
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
The end could be near for Little Knights Kingdom in Irwin Park unless community groups and residents step up to make improvements and rebuild it.
Council debated the fate of the 18-year-old play structure while discussing the 2013 budget.
The preliminary budget includes funding to repair the bridge to Little Knights Kingdom, manager Mary Benko said. Benko declined to discuss how much the borough dedicated to the funding until council formally passes a preliminary budget, which was expected to happen during Wednesday night's meeting.
Council President John Cassandro said the borough might be better off including funding to demolish Little Knights Kingdom, instead of attempting to continue funding repairs.
“Little Knights Kingdom will be demolished if the community does not get involved,” Cassandro said.
“There has to be community involvement.”
Cassandro said it could cost up to $75,000 to repair or move the bridge from Irwin Park into Little Knights Kingdom, which is too high of a cost for the borough.
“We've budgeted a lot of money for a bridge, which doesn't even cover the cost of getting Little Knights Kingdom up and running,” Cassandro said. “I think the way to handle Little Knights Kingdom is to say we don't have the money, and if everybody wants it, they're going to have to buck up and make this a community thing.
“If the community doesn't get behind Little Knights Kingdom, personally, I think we should just tear it down.”
Over the last several months, council discussed moving the bridge to Little Knights Kingdom to make the play structure more accessible to children with disabilities.
Currently, the bridge is too steep to be considered compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
Officials also questioned the bridge's stability after engineer Lucien Bove conducted a geotechnical study of its foundation. The study revealed officials would have to replace the bridge's foundation because of erosion caused by water running down the steep slope and the stream it crosses.
In February, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society rejected Irwin Council's request for a $100,000 grant to refurbish Little Knights Kingdom because it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When applying for the grant, borough officials did not present plans to bring it into ADA compliance.
Officials submitted Little Knights Kingdom's original plans, which were made in 1993. According to the ADA website, the act did not require play areas to be accessible to those with disabilities until November 2000, which was six years after Little Knights Kingdom was built.
The act requires officials to make play structures built before November 2000 ADA-compliant while making improvements or structural updates.
The bridge sits along the park's walking track, near the dek hockey rink. It is one of two ways to access Little Knights Kingdom.
The other access point is a walking trail, which starts near the Queen of Angels Catholic School parking lot.
In addition to problems with the bridge, the play area is missing several boards, and most of the cushioning is washed away.
Since it opened in 1994, chains throughout the playground have stretched, and boards have come loose, broken or worn out.
“This was a community project to begin with, and the community came together and did a great job putting it together, because it was what they wanted,” Cassandro said. “It's time to put this on the community, and it's going to go away if the community doesn't get involved.”
Cassandro said there are lots of other places to use the money, such as the streets or replacing the park's track.
Benko said it would be challenging to remove the play structure, which is built on a hillside, with limited access. It would need removed piece by piece, she said.
Mayor Dan Rose said the community's aging population gets more use out of the track than Little Knights Kingdom.
“I don't think we could get behind it,” Rose said.
“It's a matter of cost because $75,000 is really a lot to take on that bridge.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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