HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The rise in gun violence at parks in Hazleton in recent months is a big cause for concern among families in the area, but a new park opening Tuesday gives reason for hope with the promise of added safety and security.
The park on the corner of McKinley and 17th Street had its grand opening, welcoming a new wiffle ball field and playground, but the big question is whether or not the park is safe following growing gun violence near Hazleton’s public parks.
The Hazleton community turned in their metal bats and helmets for an easy and safe alternative on Tuesday, allowing everyone, even 28/22 News Reporter Emily Allegrucci, to take a whiff at the ball.
“This is a unique opportunity to blend communities. Little league has boundaries, Babe Ruth has boundaries, certainly, kids go to different schools but wiffle ball is universal. Dads, kids, moms, grandparents; doesn’t matter, everyone can come and enjoy,” said City of Hazleton Athletic Director Frank Stish.
Although the new wiffle ball park and playground were the focus, concern surrounds the uptick in gun violence near public parks in the City of Hazleton.
Hazleton mayor, Jeff Cusat, says the lights above the field can stay on all night and cameras will soon be installed in all of the city’s parks for increased safety.
“We do have cameras ordered for all the parks. It has been slow getting them up, but we are tying them all into our system at this time,” Mayor Cusat said.
Something that parents believe is a step in the right direction for the new park.
“I think it’s great, the lighting is gonna definitely help for them. I’m sure police will be patrolling the area so that’s a sense of safety as well. So yeah, I think it’s something great,” said Hazle Township resident Amanda Maloney.
And a sense of safety is important when so many children like Martina Evancho are excited to take advantage of the new turf field.
“There’s like not a lot of wiffle ballparks around here so it’s just fun to be here,” said Martina Evancho of Freeland.
Such excitement with the feeling of security was the goal while driving this project home.
“We want kids to interact with each other, we want people to be outside to do stuff, and stay out of trouble. And, you know, you give them something unique, if you build it they will come,” Mayor Cusat explained.
Those who had a hand in the community-driven park hope to start wiffleball leagues for all ages and have the park be a safe space for all.