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Cal U students Justin Celommi Jr. looks over
a map of the Allenport Park.

Park in progress

Students provide input on Allenport project

Before play comes work. Students in parks and recreation management classes at Cal U put in three semesters’ worth of mental labor as they partnered with the nearby borough of Allenport, Pa., to develop plans to redesign Thomas Reid III Memorial Park.

“We’ve always wanted to do something with the park,” says former Allenport Council member Dennis Martinak, director of municipal services for borough engineer Mackin Engineering Co.

“I met (Cal U faculty member) Dr. John Confer through another project, and we discussed whether there were aspects of a redesign that students could take a look at.”

When Allenport received funding from the River Town Program to create a site plan for park upgrades, he reached out to Cal U.

The River Town Program, a statewide initiative of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, is locally administered by the National Road Heritage Corridor and supported by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The program promotes community and economic development in towns along four Pennsylvania rivers, including the Monongahela.

Students in classes taught by Confer, Dr. Thomas Wickham and Dr. Candice Riley applied what they had learned to propose upgrades to park equipment and suggest new features.

“They met in small groups on this design project,” Confer says. “They used their knowledge from site visits, the classroom, textbooks and websites to render sketches, drawings, pictures, presentations and textual descriptions.”

Those ideas were shared with Matt Lokay, a senior landscape architect for Mackin Engineering.

“We looked at the demographics of the community, did a needs assessment, took note of existing equipment at the park, and made recommendations on funding sources,” says senior William Brazill, a parks and recreation management major.

“I appreciated the students' interest in 'green' infrastructure, and we incorporated some of their ideas, like a treehouse, into a nature-play area.”
Matt Lokay, Mackin Engineering

Matt Lokay, landscape architect with Mackin Engineering Co., discusses plans with Cal U parks and recreation students.

Many of the students’ ideas are part of the final site design proposal.

“The walking trail was a student idea and is one of the major components of this park project, because a neighborhood loop would tie the community to the park,” Lokay says.

“I appreciated the students’ interest in ‘green’ infrastructure, and we incorporated some of their ideas, like a treehouse, into a nature-play area.”

Cal U students also provided insight into what younger people want to have in a park, such as a basketball court.

“There have been some delays involving right-of-way issues with the basketball court and an issue with the grade of the walking path, but that’s part of the process. It’s a real-world example for students of what you’d like to do morphing into what can actually be built,” Lokay says.

Park upgrades are planned in three phases, beginning with the walking trail and improvements to parking and restroom access. Potential sources of funding for the $275,000 project include a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“It was good for them to see how Matt (Lokay) approached the project, what he looks at as he puts a plan together,” Martinak says.

“The students took a great approach to the project from the very beginning and offered us some very cool ideas.”

By Wendy Mackall, assistant communications director at Cal U

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