We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
When the Sewickley Herald reported at the end of June that greater-than-expected use of Leetsdale's Henle Park Splash Pad was causing some to question the free use of the facility by non-residents, it started me thinking about the nature of the land our area has preserved for the common good as community park space.
Last week's reporting on Sewickley Patch, which detailed an imminent imposition of a non-resident fee and the subsequent intervention of a private citizen to keep the pad free for all, brought the point home even further. Even after speaking with Borough Manager Paul Scimio about the specific problems that were reported with the pad's popularity, I wasn't convinced that the fee proposal was anything other than a hastily conceived band-aid that didn't address many logistical concerns, and would probably have created more problems than solutions.
The largesse of Donald Mappin Jr. of Atlantic Precious Metal Resources is certainly appreciated in the short term, but doesn't address other issues related to the increased use of the splash pad, such as upkeep of facilities, impact on traffic and parking in the area, and so on. I hope that his commitment is one that will be sustained for a good while. Hopefully this will give the borough breathing room and time to plan.
I do find it ironic that the splash pad's future as a free community resource is now hinged not only to the cost of water, but the price of gold as well.
I grew up frequenting many of the area parks; it didn't seem to matter to anyone where I lived. I thought about the expense in equipment, materials, and man-hours necessary to assure that these parks and their associated facilities don't fall into disrepair, and how important something as deceptively complex, taken for granted, yet tranquil and uplifting, is to our well-being as a community. This has been embellished even further considering some of the storm damage that occurred this week.
Most of my favorite park spaces have this feature in common - water running through it. Henle Park has a small stream running beneath it, but the splash pad was what truly linked water with what has been a staple of the Leetsdale community for as long as I've known it. This is equally true of other parks in the Sewickley area:
War Memorial Park, Sewickley
"Memorial" lost the fountain that was a feature when I was growing up, but in its place has added Hoey's Hideaway, a large playground area with a cushy rubber walking surface. This is apparently named after Hoey's Run, the stream that runs through the park. This area and the surrounding park area were enjoying heavy use on the day I visited. The park shelter is still there, as is the green area that runs up to the beginning of a hiking trail.
Walker Park, Edgeworth
With four shelters and lots of green space that borders Little Sewickley Creek, Walker is one of three Edgeworth parks worth mention here. Growing up, the park was a perfect place for a Sunday picnic, family gathering, or quiet time with your sweetie. The park is owned by Edgeworth, but sits partially in Leet Township.
Way Park, Edgeworth
When I was young, my father was a small business owner in the area of the Edgeworth School. In the summers I would sometimes spend the day with him, and this invariably took me to this little gem of a park in the center of everything that is Edgeworth and Sewickley. My peers that lived in the area would hit golf balls in this park. I love the stream flowing through the stone-lined channel, around the island, and under the bridge.
This park is popular with newlyweds for photos, and we were no exception. The park is meticulously maintained and clean. In winter, the solitary pine near the Meadow Lane / Beaver Road intersection, fully lit with small lights, is a poignant and beautiful symbol of the holiday season.
Morrow Pontefract Park, Edgeworth
This is my favorite green space, period. That's saying a lot for someone who has been out west a long time, but there is something about this place that feels very special.
I mention the park by name to people and sometimes get a blank stare. There are no signs for the park, even at the entrance from Beaver Road - do you really need one with this inviting view? I usually need to follow up with "the park by Quaker Village".
If you enter the park from the shopping center, you'll see these majestic old trees. The park from this side feels like what it actually represents - the boundary between the pastoral, rarefied setting of Edgeworth and the busy commercial and industrial center that is Leetsdale.
When I was a teenager, I would enter the park via a dirt trail at the end of Maple Lane, which puts you on the south side of Little Sewickley Creek. The creek bisects the park, but is shallow enough here to wade across in most areas if it suits you. There is a footbridge and a couple of memorial benches alongside the creek, including one in memory of Edgeworth Police Chief James Creese, who I was privileged to work for in the 90's.
Despite its proximity to Route 65, the railroad, and the shopping center, "Morrow Park" offers a place for quiet reflection and to enjoy a beautifully balanced natural setting.
At the same time I am waxing nostalgically about green spaces, our family is remembering someone who loved parks, especially the splash pad. We said goodbye to Michaela a year ago this week; she now rests in another beautiful green space, and we know that she is smiling from Heaven at all who loved and cared for her.
The photo below, and the video at the top, were taken at ACORD Park about a month before she died. It was a nice diversion from what was the routine at the time, back and forth to Children's for radiation treatments. We took lunch there, and spent a little time in the large playground and alongside Lowries Run, throwing stones into the creek. Simple yet profound activities, especially now that she is gone. Michaela, we miss you.
Michaela's determination to ride a pony at the 4th of July celebration in Henle Park last year, less than 2 weeks before she passed away, is something that Leslie told me she will always carry with her as an example of strength and bravery in the face of tremendous hardship. At times like these, we all need a little space to breathe, to reflect, to play, to pray.
Thank God for the beauty present on this Earth, and for those of His children who put forth their labor to see it preserved for the rest of us.
Have a good weekend.
Photo Credit: McMillen Photography - Ed Hughes (wedding party)