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Norwin-area officials take recreation seriously

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Providing plenty of fun and games for residents is serious business in the Norwin area.

North Huntingdon is expanding its summer recreational offerings for children this year by using a private company to operate a lacrosse program and a pair of camps focusing on Olympic sports.

After years of inactivity, Irwin revived its recreation board in the hopes of offering more activities and events in the borough.

Dan Miller, North Huntingdon's director of parks and recreation, said offering recreation and social activities is part of a vision for improving the quality of life in the township.

“We believe that providing recreation programs and good park facilities are just as vital to a vibrant community as public safety, infrastructure and development,” Miller said.

“We may not be able to offer as much as we would like to, so we focus on providing high-quality programming.”

Karen Burke, executive director of the State College-based Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, said there are benefits to providing recreation programs and activities.

“While we often think of the services provided by our local parks and recreation departments as fun and games, these agencies are actually providing an essential service to our communities,” she said.

“They create programs that provide role models for our youth, helping to reduce crime and activities that put kids at risk.”

Recreation programs also make communities more attractive, Burke said.

“In addition to providing places and structured activities where people can be physically active and improve their health, they provide economic benefit to the community by increasing property values, bringing in tourism, and offering a high quality of life for citizens, which in turn makes the community more attractive to businesses.”

While traditional youth sports such as baseball, soccer and football are available in North Huntingdon, Miller searches for activities that might be of interest to those looking for something different.

“Last year we did a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program that was well received, and this year we're doing a Broadway camp for children who are interested in live theater,” he said.

In addition to providing activities to keep children engaged during the summer, the township also offers a number of signature events throughout the year, Miller said.

“We try to hold at least one major event during each quarter of the year,” Miller said.

“They've proven to be pretty popular based on the number of people who participate.”

The “Eggapalooza” Easter egg hunt in April drew nearly 700 children, Miller said, and the “haunted trail” around Indian Lake attracted 600 to 700 children.

After Irwin council Vice President Peggie Watson took a break several years ago after a decade serving on the borough's recreation board, she decided to get involved again this year.

“I felt bad that some of the popular activities that we had sponsored in the past for kids and families were no longer being held,” she said.

“I think they are important to the community.”

Activities are being planned to complement events sponsored each year by Irwin's Business & Professional Association, Watson said.

With help from fellow board members Cathy Wayman and Lori Sinchar, the recreation board held an Easter egg hunt in April that drew more than 100 children.

Plans are in the works for events through the remainder of the year including bus trips to the Quecreek Mine Rescue Memorial and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County; and a winery and fall foliage excursion.

“In the past we had movies in the park, so we'd like to do those again,” Watson said.

“But we're planning to move it to downtown.”

Initial plans are to show films in the parking lot of the S&T Bank, and eventually move the venue to an empty lot adjacent to the Lamp Theatre where a courtyard eventually will be built.

A “zombie walk” for teens is also being planned for October to raise money for the Westmoreland County Food Bank, and officials are considering a holiday-themed 5k race that would be held around Christmas time.

“We've got tons of ideas kicking around,” Watson said. “But we need help developing and coordinating them. Volunteering does take some time, but it's also a lot of fun, so I would encourage people to give it a try.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at

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