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Irwin to apply for grant for play area project

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Irwin council hopes a grant to repair the bridge to Little Knights Kingdom will jumpstart the rehabilitation of the 20-year-old structure.

Borough officials plan to apply for a $150,000 grant through the Department of Community and Economic Development's Greenways, Rails and Recreation Program to repair and relocate the bridge leading to the play structure, according to manager Mary Benko.

The grant requires a 20 percent match, making Irwin responsible for $30,000 if the grant is awarded, Benko said.

The borough budgeted $50,000 for repairs, she said.

“This grant is designed to improve it, so we can either remove the bridge or repair it where it stands,” she said.

A geotechnical engineering study, conducted by engineer Lucien Bove, determined officials would have to replace the bridge's foundation due to erosion, caused by water running down the steep slope. On the side closest to the amphitheater, the bridge's foundation is set in crumbling concrete. Across the stream, the bridge's foundation sits embedded in rock.

Once the bridge is repaired, council could consider repairing parts of the play structure, Benko said.

The play area is missing several boards and most of the cushioning is gone.

Since it opened in 1994, chains throughout the playground have stretched, and boards have come loose, broken or worn out, she said.

Council president John Cassandro said he would like to see officials use a composite material, instead of wood, to repair the bridge and play structure. Typically, wood has a 20-year life span in recreation projects, he said.

“Really, we're at the end of its life,” Cassandro said. “We could use this material that is easier to maintain.”

Cassandro suggested the borough plan on applying for grants over the course of several years to update Little Knights Kingdom's play structure in several phases.

Benko said there are grants available to replace wood with a stronger composite material.

The grant isn't the borough's first attempt to secure funding for Little Knights Kingdom.

Last year, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or DCNR, and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society denied 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 that grant, the borough 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.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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