City cuts 2 sites from Rec budget

And then there were three.

With the decision to cut the Mulberry Park and DeFrees Park playgrounds from the Parks and Recreation budget, only Beaty, Crescent and Lacy remain as supervised playgrounds in Warren.

“We’re just going to have to get the word out that there are still playgrounds that will be supervised,” said Mary Ann Nau, the City of Warren’s Parks and Recreation Commission director. “We aren’t closing them (Mulberry and DeFrees) down,” Nau stressed, “we just won’t have paid staff there.”

“We’re being expected to provide more or better services with less money,” added commission chairman Dennis Crandall. “We need to look at the population that’s being served. It’s hard for kids to walk to Betts (Park) because of traffic. With Betts-Jackson and Carbon Playground gone, Betts is the closest thing for the west side.”

Talks of plans to develop Mulberry Playground were limited due to swampy conditions in the lower area of the park and concerns over the rarely used emergency thruway that runs through the park. “We took the emergency thruway into consideration when replacing the swings,” said Nau when reminding the commission that a path needed to remain clear in case of an emergency closing of Conewango Avenue.

Nau still has hope that an urban recreation survey will bring in more money from the state. According to Nau, Warren was part of a focus group that was asked to provide written input that would eventually be used to help urban recreation centers. “The survey is part of a Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society initiative,” Nau explained. “They will eventually compile some sort of document that will conclude what needs to happen for these urban recreation centers to continue to be viable.”

Despite the elimination of Mulberry and DeFrees as well as decreased funding for the Summer Parks and Playground program, Cindy Strandburg, program leader, is hoping the support she has gained from local businesses will result in the preservation of the day trips taken by the playgrounds.

“Cindy has been asking for donations from local businesses to fund the day trips,” Nau explained to the rest of the commission.

Those trips include a Pittsburgh Pirates game, a trip to Darien Lake, and the popular canoe trip down the Allegheny River.

“The canoe trip had 50 kids our first year and has since quadrupled,” said Strandburg, “We had 205 kids last year. The interest is definitely there.”