Export taps into coal mining history to plan park
Export officials hope to develop a park that reflects the borough's history as a coal-mining town.
Borough council members were on hand last week to get public input on concept drawings for the future J.M. Hall Park, proposed for 15 acres east of Garfield Street.
The plan was funded through a $15,000 grant from the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Program.
The park's main entrance would be just east of the Export Italian American Club along Kennedy Avenue, with a main road and a walking path leading into the park. The path would continue into the forested land at the park's northern end.
“I think it's going to be fabulous,” said Rosalie Keough of Export, a member of the steering committee that worked with Pittsburgh-based landscape architects Pashek+MTR to develop the plan. “If you have a park in a historic town, it should look historic.”
To achieve that look and pay homage to the town's past, Pashek+MTR officials proposed features such as playground equipment with a rustic, weathered design; painting the restroom entrance to look like the former Westmoreland Coal Company mine entrance; and planting a grid-style stand of black locust trees, typically used atop former mine sites.
For Keough, who lives in a restored home that is as old as the borough, the plan is near perfection.
“My house is 106 years old, so I'm into the history of the town,” she said.
Councilwoman Melanie Litz, who took the lead in working with Pashek+MTR on the plan, said she would like to incorporate residents' suggestions, possibly using solar power to provide electricity for restrooms and installing trail cameras which may be monitored remotely for security purposes.
Councilman John Nagoda suggested working with county officials to make the park a trailhead along the future path of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail.
In a nod to the nearby Italian American Club, there are tentative plans to add bocce courts, which club officials would help manage.
The state grant will cover development of a master site plan. When it comes to building, Litz said the borough will move forward in phases.
“We can use that as our map to proceed, and hopefully acquire grants, private funding, donations and that type of thing to build the park,” she said.
Keough said she is excited to see the plans progress.
“I think it's important for kids to get off the cellphones and computers and learn about the heritage of their town,” she said.