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Latrobe officials want help to rebuild park's playground

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Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Latrobe-area recreation officials said Thursday they hope to get more volunteers to work in the evenings to rebuild the expansive Playland playground in Legion Keener Park from April 22 - 26, as well as more donations to help pay for equipment.

The Latrobe-Unity Parks & Recreation Commission has about half of the 80 volunteers it needs each evening to rebuild Playland, said Jeanne Ashley, executive director of the commission. The recreation commission's “evening shift” at the playground will be from 5 p.m. to 8 or 8:30 p.m., she said.

“The evening shifts are the ones we are having trouble filling,” said Brandon Simpson, the commission's program director. Volunteers also will be needed for the morning of April 27, Simpson said.

The commission is rebuilding Playland because the wooden playground that was built with volunteer labor in 1992 was partially damaged in a June 2012 arson that remains unsolved. Playland reopened within a week of the arson, but the playground was razed a few weeks ago in preparation for the rebuilding,

Representatives from Play by Design Inc. of Ithaca, N.Y., have designed a new Playland, based on suggestions from Latrobe-area elementary students last year.

84 Lumber Co. has been “excellent” in providing equipment and supplies for rebuilding the playground, Simpson said. Several area churches and restaurants have said they will provide enough food for between 100 and 120 volunteers twice a day during the work period. Vendors will provide drinks and plates and cups, she added.

Ashley said she had been concerned that interest in rebuilding Playland would wane as the months passed, but that has not been the case.

The recreation commission had set a fundraising goal of $200,000 to buy the necessary equipment and cover other costs. The community has responded by donating $50,000, said James Okonak, vice president of the Latrobe Foundation, which owns Legion Keener Park.

In an effort to prevent more vandalism at the playground, the commission plans to install security cameras at the site. The cameras would be connected to a recording device that would be placed in a secure area, Simpson said.

The commission has not yet determined the cost of the security procedures.

In personnel matters, Simpson submitted his resignation from the commission, effective Friday, to become the program coordinator for the Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation.

Although he will be working for the county, Simpson said that he will continue in his role of helping to organize the efforts to build Playland.

With Simpson's resignation, the commission agreed to promote Chad Schmeling, the assistant manager of the Rogers-McFeely Memorial Pool at Legion Keener Park, to pool manager.

The commission will need to hire a part-time person to replace Simpson, who had worked with the dek hockey program, Ashley said. That person may be hired prior to the commission's April meeting, contingent upon the commission's approval, Ashley said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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