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Connellsville couple selling pieces of dismantled boardwalk

| Friday, July 31, 2009

The Yough River Park boardwalk is history. It was torn down as part of improvements at Yough River Park.

"The boardwalk was in need of repair or replacement," Mayor Judy Reed said. "The engineers have redesigned the park through a grant. The boardwalk was great and people enjoyed it for years. Unfortunately, it was worn out."

Connellsville residents Carol Wingert and her husband 20/20, who legally changed his name from John, believe the boardwalk should not be forgotten. They salvaged several pieces of the disassembled boardwalk that people -- not associated with the contractor -- were ready to feed a river-bank fire.

"We had two pieces of wood," 20/20 said. "I cut it into five pieces."

The couple held an eBay auction and sold the first piece of wood for $7 to a buyer in Florida. A New Hampshire artist will use two pieces for a bike stand. He plans two more online auctions.

The eBay auction site described the first auction as "a single piece of the world famous Connellsville Board Walk, which will be remembered forever. Each piece is accompanied with a hand signed letter by me, guaranteeing that it is an authentic piece of this almost lost treasure."

20/20 is not the first to sell construction scrap as souvenirs. "There was this really amazing man named Paul Hartunian," he said. "He sold the Brooklyn Bridge. One-inch squares of the walking surface when it was replaced."

20/20 doesn't expect to make millions with his few pieces of the boardwalk, but he does have an ultimate goal: to create a sense of community.

He will use auction proceeds to buy pizza for parties in the park. The parties will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Fridays. He hopes visitors will bring their own food to share. No alcohol is permitted in the park.

"My ultimate goal is to bring the community together in Connellsville," 20/20 said. "I want to give people a reason to come together and know one another." He plans to keep the Friday night gatherings going into the future. "I'll be here until I get frostbite. We've got people coming in from Uniontown and New Stanton. We want to support local businesses and share food. As crazy as it sounds, it could go national."

Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, said the boardwalk removal "opens up view corridors. The boardwalk was not safe. It had dry rot, wet rot; there were a lot of issues. The street department had to repair it last year. Our plan is to install an asphalt walking path along there in 2010."

The authority hopes to receive a Community Conservation Partnership Grant through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "We will hear in the late fall if we get $200,000. We are using $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant money," Edwards said.

The asphalt path is just part of the Yough River Park Extension project. The playgrounds will be improved, with a tot lot for younger children and one for older children featuring a historic theme.

Torrance Street will be closed to automotive traffic in the area of Third Street. There will be enhanced landscaping on First and Third streets. Volunteers with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will do the planting.

This year, Edwards said, a water line will be extended to provide a water fountain and a hose connector near the blue and brown building behind Martin's Food Market, part of the trail will be repaved 12-feet wide, the fence around the pump station in the park will be made smaller and a kiosk plaza with a brick seating area and umbrellas will be installed.

Phase two will involve installing a gravel parking area at Yough Park Extension, formerly called the Stewart's Crossing Project, behind Martin's. River-bank stabilization will be part of the second phase.

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