The Borough of Middleport, with support from the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission and state Rep. Neal P. Goodman's office, held a grand opening and ribbon cutting event Thursday evening for the recently rehabilitated Middleport Playground and Community Park.

"The flood in 2006 completely destroyed the playground, except for a toddler unit," said Jason Boris, executive director of the ESRC. "Now the community has an impressive new park to be proud of, as well as to enjoy for many years to come."

The new playground, located on Playground Drive, features a large modular play structure, a four-seat swing set and two spring pals. In addition, new safety mulch was added, and handicapped parking and ADA-accessible walkways were installed. A smaller modular play structure was retained from the original playground, and new piece of playground equipment, titled "Overdrive," was purchased by the Borough of Middleport and is currently awaiting installation at the park.

"Since partnering with the ESRC in 2009, one of the main priorities for our borough has been to restore its current playground, which at one time was an exceptional recreational asset within the community," said Elizabeth Borger, councilwoman and borough ESRC representative. "However, due to the unfortunate flooding Schuylkill County endured during the summer of 2006, the only recreational park/playground in the Borough of Middleport was damaged, decimated and ultimately destroyed. The flooding resulted in the removal of all playground equipment on site (with the exception of one item) and the closure of the park/playground."

The new playground was developed through a joint venture between the ESRC and Middleport, which joined the ESRC in 2009 to facilitate recreational improvements within in the borough. ESRC currently consists of seven municipalities (Middleport, Tamaqua, Coaldale boroughs, and Rush, West Penn, Schuylkill and Walker townships) and one school district (Tamaqua Area School District).

Funding for the project was provided by two state grants; which include a $40,000 Small Communities Development Grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources obtained in December of 2009, and a $30,000 Single Application for Assistance Grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development obtained in December of 2008 through Rep. Goodman's office. Boris prepared the DCNR Grant application and assisted the borough with administration of the grant.

The entire project cost approximately $70,000, which includes development costs (construction, equipment) of about $63,000 and professional service costs (design/engineer) of $7,000.

"Our community consists of less than 500 people," added Borger. "We absolutely couldn't have done this without theses grants."

"Quality of life means bringing money back to the communities," said Goodman, who said this grant served as the state's last DCED grant. "Grant funded projects like this improve neighborhoods and keep families here. They also help to create safe places for children to go and play."

Middleport Park and Playground Association Committee member Wendy Dempsey said that Lowe's Home Improvement, Pottsville, stepped up by providing financial and volunteer support via their Lowe's Heroes Volunteer Program.

"Thanks to the financial assistance and support of state Rep. Neal Goodman and the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources and Lowe's Home Improvement, the Middleport Playground has been rebuilt and pride has been restored back to the community's lone public park and playground," said Amanda Leshko, president of the park and playground association.

Construction of the playground took place from May to June of this year.