Input sought in Latrobe playground reconstruction
By Joe Napsha
Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Residents of the Latrobe area — youngsters and adults — will get a chance this month to tell recreation officials and designers what features they want when the arson-damaged playground at Legion Keener Park is reconstructed next spring.
“We want to get their dream playground ideas for Playland,” Jeanne Ashley, executive director of the Latrobe-Unity Parks & Recreation Commission, said of the initiative to seek public input on the rebuilding of the 20,000-square-foot playground.
The commission oversees the facilities at Legion Keener Park, which is owned by the nonprofit Latrobe Foundation.
A team of playground designers from Play by Design LLC of Ithaca, N.Y., plans to meet with students from Latrobe, Baggaley and Mountain View elementary schools, along with Christ the Divine Teacher school in Latrobe, to get their feedback.
Ashley hopes the teachers can work with the students before the designers' visit and instruct them to make drawings, collages and murals of their dream playground.
From the ideas proposed by the youngsters, the designers will make a rough rendering of the new Playland and reveal the drawing during a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in Latrobe City Hall, Ashley said.
“Design day is an educational event, showing children how the design process works, as well as getting the community to understand the community-built process,” she said. “The design organization is being developed, and we have had interest by more than 100 volunteers already.”
A final design might be available before the end of the year or early next year, Ashley said. Construction is scheduled to start in early April and will take about six days to complete.
A fire damaged a rear section of the playground on June 2. That segment was repaired, and it was reopened in about a week, thanks to volunteers.
Designers are following the path of the original designers of Playland, who sought the input of students before constructing the extensive wooden playground in May 1992 at a cost of $85,000. The playground was installed through a community-wide volunteer effort.
While Play By Design is working on its final design for the new Playland, Ashley said, the recreation commission will form committees to work on the reconstruction.
Jim Okonak, vice president of the Latrobe Foundation, said on Thursday that about $45,000 has been raised for the project, “thanks to the generosity of the community.” A fundraising goal of $200,000 has been set, he said.
No one has been arrested for the arson. Latrobe police have said they have identified persons of interest in the case.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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