Hundreds help to rebuild Latrobe playground damaged by arson
An army of volunteers swarmed the rear section of Legion Keener Park in Latrobe all day Tuesday, cutting lumber, staining boards, setting 20-foot-tall posts and building the framework that will become Playland II, an expansive playground that will have a touch of Mister Rogers.
“It's taken months and months to prepare, but it is coming together,” said Jeanne Ashley, executive director of the Latrobe-Unity Parks & Recreation Commission, which is overseeing the rebuilding project.
The new Playland will have a trolley, like the one featured in Latrobe native Fred Rogers' “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” television show, Ashley said.
Children will be able to enjoy a climbing area, a zip line, swings and mazes, towers and houses with various themes.
Playland is being rebuilt because part of it was damaged in a June 2012 arson. Although it reopened a week after the fire-damaged section was removed, the regional recreation commission decided to build a new Playland with modern safety features and accessibility for handicapped children. Just a small section of the original Playland was salvaged.
The original Playland — replete with wooden mazes, swings, skyscrapers, towers and a trolley — was built by hundreds of volunteers in May 1992.
One of those volunteers, David Meholic of Latrobe, returned for round two, setting posts for a piece of playground equipment.
“It's nice how it all is coming together,” said Meholic, who came to the park with a crew from his work at Aggressive Grinding Inc. of Unity.
Meholic recalled that in 1992 his wife, Shelby, was pregnant with their daughter, so she steered clear of the sawdust from the treated lumber because of the chemicals it contained, opting instead to help prepare food for the volunteers.
“Our daughter (Carly) spent lots of afternoons down here. She'll be here with St. Vincent (College) as part of their group” of volunteers, Meholic said.
Meholic was among more than 200 volunteers expected to work on Tuesday, said Craig Shevchik, the recreation commission's program director.
The volunteers this week will be working with about 1,000 pieces of treated lumber, 600 pieces of composite boards made of wood and plastic and about 100 posts. The plan is to finish the massive project on Sunday evening.
The effort got a big boost Tuesday from about 170 volunteers from Kennametal Inc., which has corporate headquarters is in Unity.
“There are a lot of families (at Kennametal) who use the park and we feel privileged to help,” said Ben Stas of Unity. The company's chief executive, Carlos Cardoso, challenged employees to donate 75 hours of community service in recognition of the company's 75th anniversary.
One worker whose daughter will be using the rebuilt Playland is Cindy Stein of Unity, who was accompanied by 5-year-old Miranda.
“It's so important for the kids. It's great for Miranda to come and be part of the experience,” Stein said.
If the recreation commission had to pay a contractor for the labor, the project would cost an additional $150,000, excluding all of the donated materials and equipment, said Lee Archin, a co-founder of Play by Design of Ithaca, N.Y., which designed the customized playground with input from Latrobe area elementary school children.
The volunteers “are willing to do anything on the job. They want to help,” Archin said.
The new Playland will have a time capsule, like the original one had. But the first one sustained water damage, said Dawna Bates of Unity, a retired Greater Latrobe elementary teacher who helped to organize the capsule's contents.
The commission has not decided when to open the time capsule, but it will not be for at least 20 years, Ashley said.
“It's great for the community to come together and do this. We are a special place,” Bates said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Residents warned after incidents with bottles rigged to explode on Jeannette streets
- Fire marshal probes cause of blaze that destroyed vacant Derry Township house
- Latrobe ear-biting suspect loses bid for reduced bail
- Donora-Monessen bridge ramps to stay open during construction
- Request for documents delays Speedway hearing in Unity
- Youngwood aims to reduce amount that ends up in sewage treatment facility
- Forbes: Night at the Races planned at sportsmen’s club
- Westmoreland County tourism grants promote banana splits, breweries, trolley, railroad
- Laurel Mountain Ski Resort discusses planned revival
- Ligonier doctor’s appeal to practice rejected
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease