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Support for park sliding

August 05, 1998

South Franklin St. ParkBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer [enlarge]




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Children from a nearby day-care center say they like playing in a small neighborhood park on South Franklin Street in the borough's west end, but they may be the only people who want it to stay open.

Borough officials, tired of complaints that the park has been a hangout for rowdy teenagers who drink, use drugs, fight or engage in immoral behavior, say the park at South Franklin and West Second streets should be sold.

"The council decided that they would keep the park open and mow the grass, but would not put in money to fix it up," said Councilwoman Vicki Huff.

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Some members want to close the park, she said.

An area businessman said he may want to buy the park and an anonymous donor has said he wants to donate a larger piece of west end land for a new park, Huff said.

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said before any sale, records would have to be checked to see how the borough got possession of the park. If money to buy the land came from the state, it might have to stay a park forever, he said.

Cynthia Freeman, a teacher at Kids Express day-care center at 243 W. Second St., across the street from the park, takes children to the park every day that weather permits.

Freeman said she wants the park kept open. She also wants the borough to replace and upgrade its playground equipment, much like it is doing for a another borough-owned neighborhood park on Mount Airy Street on the north side of town.

Residents of a public housing project there raised some of the money for the park equipment but most - about $12,000 - came from a Community Development Block Grant, Huff said. The project's homeowners' association lobbied borough officials to fix up the park.

Huff said the lower-income Mount Airy neighborhood qualifies for Block Grant funds, while those in the Franklin Street neighborhood do not.

Freeman said the reason is politics.

"The west side has all of the industry that supports the town, so it's only right that they should do something for us here," she said. "Many people here are older and don't have children. They really don't care, so it's hard to get support for the park," she said.

"Things started going downhill this spring when I noticed that there was no sand in the sandbox. They mow the grass and pick up the trash, but they don't do anything else," she said.

Freeman wants new or renovated equipment, a modern, covered slide and a higher fence so the balls will stay in the playground, she said. "They can't even play ball there," she said.

The teens who caused the problems no longer come to the park. They either grew up and left the area or the constant visits by police drove them away, Huff said.

Children at the day-care center wrote petitions explaining why they thought the park should stay open. They wrote about the shade under the park's four big maple trees and playing on what remains of the playground equipment, Freeman said.

"I didn't know that there were people interested in the park. We only heard from people who want it closed," Huff said. "Personally, I'm open-minded."

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