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Grandview Park again worthy of name

| Friday, June 24, 2011

The view was spectacular, but not much else.

That was Diane Delmer's assessment of Grandview Park 10 years ago. She recalled the litter strewn about the century-old, 40-acre city park, how its benches were tagged by graffiti vandals, how its main entrance along Bailey Avenue in Mt. Washington was covered with years of accumulated grime.

"It was sad, really," Delmer said. "It looked old and tired. The park really wasn't worthy of the view."

What a difference a decade can make.

In 2001, Delmer founded the Friends of Grandview Park, a volunteer organization of about 10 people. The group has labored to help transform what once was a foreboding place to be avoided into a park in which the community can take pride.

"What the Friends of Grandview Park has done has been absolutely phenomenal," said Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation for the Mt. Washington Community Development Corp. "Day in and day out, they have worked with the city to ensure that the park is as beautiful as it can be."

Those efforts will be celebrated on Saturday during a park community day that will feature children's activities, live music, arts and crafts vendors and an auto show.

An event like that would have been unthinkable a generation ago, when the people who most regularly used the park were those who regularly used drugs. The park's reputation reached its nadir in 1982, when a 16-year-old girl was murdered in its woods.

"People around here still talk about that," said Delmer, 64, of Mt. Washington. "Some of the older people in the neighborhood still don't think it's safe to go there, but I think we've kind of chased away the bad element by being out there every day."

Working in conjunction with the city Public Works Department, the group has raised money for or assisted in a number of upgrades at the park -- beginning at the entrance, where those years of grime were sandblasted away.

Off the top of her head, Delmer can rattle off a litany of other improvements made at the park since the friends group formed.

"Planted gardens, we painted the grandstand," she said. "A new railing was installed at the overlook. New paths throughout the park. The playground is on the list for painting."

Grandview also was added to the city Cinema in the Parks program. The movies shown there on summer evenings attract well-behaved crowds that are a stark contrast to the unsavory element that once congregated in the park after dusk.

Looking ahead, Delmer said she would like to get the fountain at the park's entrance functional again. She estimated that it hasn't worked for nearly 30 years.

That project and others should ensure that Delmer and her volunteer group will build on the solid foundation of their first decade.

"Community involvement is so critical for a neighborhood to move forward," she said. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished so far."

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