WILKES-BARRE — From living next to Spruce Street Park, Ray Raykovitz had a few suggestions on how the city should spend the nearly $100,000 budgeted for upgrades.
Eyeing the brush, weeds and trees covering the hillside to the rear to the park, Raykovitz said, “All that needs to be taken down.”
Raykovitz offered his input while meeting with Tony Brooks, Wilkes-Barre city council chairman; Joyce Morrash Zaykowski, director of the city’s Office of Economic and Community Development; Linda Joseph, president of the Rolling Mill Hill Residents’ Association and a couple other neighbors Monday morning.
The city allocated $100,000 in federal block grant funds to fix up the park located near the intersection of Spruce and Blackman streets and the on-site get together served as an opportunity for neighbors to speak up.
The blue-painted concrete walls overlooking the park would be a good place for a mural, said John Suchoski. Someone else suggested getting rid of the deteriorating timbers used for steps and to form terraces on the sloping property. The mulch in the children’s playground should be replaced and making the entrance handicap accessible also were mentioned.
Zaykowski said she would bring up the suggestions during a meeting Tuesday with Mike Amato of PennEastern, architects and engineers. The Wilkes-Barre firm was selected as the consulting engineer/architect for the park project.
A study done last year by the city identified Spruce Street and Weissman Park on Scott Street in the city’s East End as having the most pressing safety issues, Zaykowski said. Work is underway at Weissman Park after the city received $75,000 in state Act 13 funds from the natural gas impact fees that are awarded annually to municipalities.
Zaykowski said the city has approximately $90,000 on actual upgrades at Spruce Street after the engineering fees are paid.
“To upgrade the park would be fantastic,” said neighbor Brigid Casey-Godfrey.
Her comment pleased Brooks whose District B includes the Rolling Mill Hill section.
“I’m happy that people like it when the city pays attention to their neighborhood,” Brooks said.
He and some of the neighbors next planned to walk through Rolling Mill Hill to compile a list of vacant and blighted properties for a database maintained by the city.
Residents often ask who owns an abandoned property and what the city is going to do about it, Brooks said. “I want to give immediate answers to people,” he added. Brooks later said he and some residents walked on seven streets and found five vacant properties.
As Brooks and the others discussed the park, Kim Verruggio prepared to delve into “Sam and the Firefly” by P.D. Eastman for Ophelia, Gavin and Veda. The trio visited the park with their grandparents, Renee and Tom, who asked that their’s and the childrens’ last names not be published, and participated in the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA’ s Food and Fun at the Park program. Each weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. it provides a free lunch, a snack and more to children from kindergarten to grade 12.
“We do a reading program,” Verruggio. She who works with the program conducted at the YMCA and five other parks:
• Coal Street Park at Coal and North Sherman streets.
• Iron Triangle Playground at Hickory and Metcalf streets.
• Huber Park at Stanton and Huber streets.
• Parsons Park on Scott Street.
• Miner Park on Old River Road near Kistler Elementary School.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.