Charleroi tries to steer youths back to its parks

Charleroi trying to steer youths back to playgrounds

June 10, 2013
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Nancy Bryner volunteers Saturday to clean up the overlooked Crest Avenue playground in Charleroi. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Christopher Karns, a summer intern in Charleroi, volunteers Saturday to spruce up the Crest Avenue playground, where he will be overseeing activities for children. Order a Print

CHARLEROI – Layers of rust were allowed to coat World War II-era playground equipment in some Charleroi playgrounds, which have been mostly overlooked for more than a decade until Saturday.

Volunteers devoted that morning to scrubbing and painting two public parks in the borough, where council has hired a summer intern to hold activities two days a week to give local children an alternative to getting in trouble.

“The parks are rough,” the intern, Christopher Karns of Cranberry, said Saturday while he applied a fresh coat of brown paint to a pavilion at Crest Avenue Park.

“We are going to give the kids some fun, organized activities. The kids are going to love it,” said Karns, who is about to enter his senior year at California University of Pennsylvania, where he majors in business.

Decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for adults in this once-thriving Mon Valley town to organize regular summer activities at the borough’s four playgrounds, said Donn Henderson, Charleroi’s borough manager.

And then, after 2010, the playgrounds became an afterthought.

“We can’t assume people didn’t care,” Henderson said. “We have to assume people didn’t have the time.”

The park restoration project is the first initiative to grow out of a new committee Charleroi Council formed to plan a strategy for revitalizing the town.

Henderson said the Mon Valley borough, for the first time, is dealing with second-generation poverty, and it also is seeing a growing number of absentee landlords.

He said it’s been proven that children who do not have positive, organized recreation often “wander to other organized activities.

“Kids are so disconnected,” he said. “You almost have to teach them how to play in the park again.”

Karns will be paid $1,000 this summer to organize games and oversee such activities as planting gardens and arts and crafts projects at the parks on Crest and Woodland avenues Tuesdays and Thursdays, respectively. The activities, which begin this week, will be offered from 2 to 7 p.m. The borough is spending another $11,000 to spread mulch at the parks, where, in some cases, the ground has eroded so far below swingsets that it’s difficult to use them.

Other park improvements are being planned, including equipment repair, basketball hoop installation, security cameras and new fencing. The borough also may run water lines to the parks in order to spray the kids on hot days.

“To me it’s grass roots community building,” Henderson said.

For more information, call 724-483-6011 or email

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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