Washington Park Debate Rages on at Parks & Recreation Commission Meeting

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WARREN, Pa. – The debate regarding the future of Washington Park heard arguments from both sides during Tuesday’s Parks & Recreation Commission special meeting at the City of Warren Municipal Building.

(Matt Lokay, standing, of Mackin Engineers, gives a presentation on Washington Park.)

Matt Lokay, Sr. Landscape Architect with Mackin Engineers & Consultants, was hired by the City of Warren to do a conceptual site plan for the popular park, which is 65 acres and sits North of Warren, overlooking the city off of Liberty St.

The city also recently acquired a quarter-acre outparcel connecting the park with West 5th Ave.

Based on his findings, Lokay made a presentation at the meeting detailing four different ideas – 1. No action; 2. Improvements to existing road and park and enhancing trailheads; 3. Improving the trail system; 4. Introducing recreational trails.

“At the conclusion of our site walk, we concluded that the topography and lack of utilities limit development potential,” Lokay said. “The site lacks ADA (Americans With Disabilities) accessible parking, trails and restrooms. Road improvements could provide better access and make the park more inviting.”

The no action idea needs no explanation. As for the rest of the options, the second one (Improvements to existing road and park and enhancing trailheads), includes providing five to six additional parking spaces, per Lokay, as well as improvements to the entrance, road surfacing and drainage.

“And moving down the overlook, there would be formalized parking at the cul-de-sac, as well as a trail kiosk with park announcements, rules, and mapping,” Lokay said. “There would also be potential for a prefabricated, 9×7 waterless restroom.”

As for the third option, this would enhance the existing, informal trail system already in place.

“There would be a yellow trail, an orange trail and a purple trail,” Lokay explained. The orange trail would be the longest and be 1.35 miles of dirt, single-track dirt surface, while the yellow trail would consist of crushed limestone and the purple trail a single track surface as well.

Option three would also include an autism-friendly nature trail.

“It would provide different sensory experiences along the trail, contrasting spatial relationships as visitors move through the trail, as well as quiet spaces for listening and regrouping,” noted Lokay.

The third option would still keep the park passive, with the fourth option, active recreation, altogether different.

It would consist of the yellow, orange and purple trails, with the yellow being for passive recreation only and the orange and purple mountain bike and hike trails.

“The desired mountain biking trails are typically 2.5 miles and above,” Lokay said. “The proposed system is just under that distance at 2.35 miles.

The debate ensued from the public as to whether Washington Park should remain a passive park or one that becomes developed with trails for mountain biking and hiking.

“We have received a number of letters from months ago until tonight, covering all sides of the spectrum as far as their wishes for Washington Park,” Commission chair Mike Suppa said. “They will all be used in formulating any recommendation at a future time.”

No recommendation was made during Tuesday’s meeting, but public comment was heard.

“I know this is all conceptual, but I think that trails in town are important for our youth because some parents can’t get them to areas outside the city,” said city resident Andy Georgakis. “This gives these kids an opportunity to be in open space and enjoy nature the way I did growing up.

Others, especially those whose property borders the park, see it a little differently.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” resident Curt Maney said. “I know the park, I’ve been to it a lot. In my opinion, this is not the place. I would love to see the road, the park fixed up. But all these lines, living on that hill, riding in those woods. I know what’s in those woods. There’s too much going on there. There’s a lot that needs to be addressed.

“Fix up the park, that would be great. Then I could take my son there. We all know the park needs work.”

In addition to the presentation, directional signs for the park were also discussed.

“I think we’re in pretty full agreement that the Park is not well noted in terms of direction,” Suppa said. “We have asked the city to look into putting in a couple of signs along 5th/6th Ave. as well as 3rd Ave. and Liberty St. The communication I got is that the city is going to be working on that. We would like ‘Washington Park Overlook’ or ‘Scenic Overlook at Washington Park’ on them. Having the overlook on there would make it known that’s there’s a really nice viewpoint for people from out of town.”

Public Works Superintendent Joe Reinke said that the cost for signage would be in the neighborhood of $200 for a 48×16 and $300 for a 78×24.

“I think we have money in the budget for no more than $1,000 (for signage),” City Manager Nancy Freenock said.

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