By Courtney L. Saylor
Herald Staff Writer
There’s a park along the Shenango River bank in downtown Sharon, but few people brave the poison ivy, lack of lighting and falling-down structures to visit it.
Local leaders hope to change that by razing the dilapidated stage and gazebo next weekend at Bicentennial Park and using a $10,000 grant toward fixing up the river side, said Sue Smith of the Northwest Commission, which oversaw the grant process.
“We want to make it into a user-friendly park. Right now it is not,” said Sally Giordano of the Sharon Beautification Commission.
They’d applied for a $40,000 Northwest Greenways Block Grant to clear the overgrown plants along the shore and walkways at the park and to replace fencing, benches and lamp posts.
Smith said they’ll have to change the scope of the work with the change in budget.
“Everything helps,” Giordano said, adding that the players will have to sit down and reevaluate their priorities and determine what they can do with the amount they were awarded.
“We’re pretty excited. It’ll give us a start,” said commission member Brian Kepple.
Kepple said their goal is to open up the space, clear pathways and make it more safe. He said they hope the upgrades will tie in with the in-the-works WaterFire project slated for 2013.
The city partnered with the Sharon Beautification Commission, Shenango River Watchers and the newly-formed Shenango Valley Gardeners to apply for the grant and has $6,650 in cash pledged as well as donations of time and labor toward projects.
Kepple said they plan to repurpose lamp posts being replaced on State Street and put them up in the park.
A cadre of volunteers will do much of the work and more people are always welcome to get involved.
Sprucing up the park will affect a lot of people, particularly the nearly 1,000 people who live in five apartment complexes near the 3.6 acre park that hugs the river from West Connelly Boulevard to West Budd Street. It was established during the downtown redevelopment boom in 1975.
A study done in 2008 identified more than $1.2 million in desired improvements at the park, including a fishing pier, new buildings and parking.
The commission next meets at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Insite Group conference room, 611 S. Irvine Ave., Sharon.