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Benefits, problems at local parks discussed

Representatives from four of the five participating municipalities attended Friday morning's Parks and Recreation session of the third annual G5 Summit, discussing problems with the parks in their respective areas, while exchanging ideas and suggestions.

Hosted by Vern Ohler, director of the Connellsville Street Department, the meeting covered various topics of concern regarding recreation.

The group discussed maintenance and grass-cutting at parks and borough-owned areas and talked about vandalism in the parks.

"Last month I pulled 10 picnic tables out of the creek in East Park," Ohler said. "I pulled out six then I went back a couple days later and pulled out four more."

Mt. Pleasant Borough Manager Jeff Landy said that his town is plagued with spray-painters.

"We've been seeing a lot of spray-painting," Landy said.

Gerald Firestone, head of Scottdale Parks and Recreation, said that Scottdale, too, has had vandalism problems.

"They vandalized the equipment, like the slides," he said.

The group discussed using cameras to try to deter the problems and also talked about "blacking out" the parks.

"If you can't see what you are doing, then you can't do it," Ohler said.

Landy asked if anyone else offered rewards to citizens who turn in vandals who are then convicted.

"We offer a $500 reward if they are convicted," Landy said, adding that even with the reward, people are reluctant to call police.

"We tell them that if they call the police that no one will know their names, but for some reason people just don't call," Landy said.

Park usage was discussed.

Ohler said that his intern, Russell Taylor of Penn State, did a door-to-door canvassing of certain areas of the city to ask residents about park usage.

"We found out that the parks are being used," Taylor said. "The parks are popular."

Issues with dog waste were discussed, with Landy saying that Mt. Pleasant has had reports of owners not cleaning up after their animals in a few parks.

The borough is in the process of alleviating the problem by removing sections of fencing so there is no longer a closed-in area, hoping that dog owners will now be more reluctant to let their dogs run if they can escape.

Ohler talked about the success of Connellsville's summer sports and recreation programs.

"We've had them for a couple years and they are really popular," Ohler said.

The groups also discussed their Lunch in the Park programs, which are popular in Everson and Scottdale, as well as arts and crafts programs in parks.

The safety of playground equipment and litigation issues were discussed, and the curtailment of drug usage was also talked about at length.

"We got the drug dog and he has really made a big difference," Landy said.

The discussion was held for more than 90 minutes, with ideas and information on contacts and programs exchanged.

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