Digital Exclusive: From Problem Spot to Inclusive Park

Digital Exclusive

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– What was once a trouble spot along Lee Park Avenue is becoming an inclusive playground.

The plot next to the Lee Park Honor Roll and Veterans Memorial used to be a local fire station. The firehouse at the top of the hill and the park below it were the centerpiece of a thriving location for kids to play before they fell into disarray and became a hotbed for vandalism. Township manager Sam Guesto remembers growing up in the area.

“Even when I was young, that’s where we would recreate,” said Guesto. “We had working fountains, a sprinkler system for when you were hot and wanted to play, the basketball court which is in disrepair right now–it was utilized 12 to 16 hours a day so it was very vibrant and kids used to socialize there.”

Unfortunately, as kids grew older, they stuck around the park and just about turned it upside down.

“Over the years it started to get to the point where kids didn’t congregate there, older individuals did and those people who wanted to create vandalism ruined it,” he added. “It got to the point where we closed it in about 2006.”

Guesto and the township had received plenty of calls to address the area and the idea came about to turn the top part of the hill into a safe haven for youngsters of all abilities.

“We have a viable solution to something that was needed and requested from the community,” said Guesto. “That was big for our board, to me and to getting this up and running. It’s something that we feel that we wanted to put together for all capabilities so all children can recreate together in a safe manner. Basically, any kind of barriers or disabilities, we’re trying to take those out of the equation. Whether it’s a physical or social disability or any type of limitation that one might have, take them out of the equation and have equipment here that allows anyone to recreate in a safe manner with other children.”

The park will better serve the community around the local elementary school and is funded by a grant from Luzerne County.

“This grant is from Luzerne County. County Manager Dave Pedri, through the office of community development, offered it up to all communities through the grant program,” added Guesto. “This is one of the submissions we had that got awarded. Our board commissioners wanted me to seek this grant out. We’ve been given about $148,000 for the grant with the purpose of getting this playground up and running and to buy everything.”

The bulk of the construction is done, but the park won’t officially open until the fencing, new lighting and sidewalk are put in to help deter vandalism and keep the new park nice for all visitors. A ribbon-cutting event to open the new park is expected to take place around August 15.

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