Richard E. Miller Memorial Park, Hometown, already thriving with a baseball and multiuse/soccer field, will be expanded to include a playground area, thanks to a $40,000 Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources state grant.

The grant was secured by the efforts of the Tamaqua-based Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission. Jason Boris, ESRC Executive Director, said that it's the second time Miller Park has benefited from state grant money.

"The area was donated to the township by the Miller estate in 2000 and there was nothing there," Boris recalled. "It was just a parcel of land, but located where it could become a hub for recreation for Rush."

In 2000, the parcel was enhanced with the construction of a youth baseball field, youth soccer/multipurpose field and gravel parking area. The recent DCNR $40,000 grant will be matched with a $20,000 contribution from the township. The improvements should be complete by the summer 2015.

The $60,000 project will consist of the construction of a small parking lot, a playground area and swing set with proper safety surfacing, ADA accessible walkways, trees and landscaping, a storm water control facility, and related site improvements.

"The playground area was the next logical step," Boris said. "In various other locations in Rush, playground equipment that was outdated and no longer met safety requirements had been removed, so there was a need for a public playground area."

"Expanding Miller Park makes a lot of sense," he added. "It will become a place for children of all ages to have grounds for recreation."

Rush Township Supervisors Chairman Shawn Gilbert agreed.

"Miller Park upgrades will help fulfill one of the Township's recreation and community development objectives by increasing the quality and quantity of community recreation within the Township," Gilbert said. "By developing a playground area in Miller Park, the Township is maximizing recreational opportunities on a parcel of land that already primarily serves families and youth in a recreational capacity."

Boris, Rush Township supervisors and other community representatives are planning to meet at the park for an official check presentation soon.

DCNR is the primary source of state support for Pennsylvania recreation, parks, and conservation initiatives. Grant funding from DCNR assists hundreds of communities and organizations across Pennsylvania to plan, acquire, and develop recreation and park facilities, create trails, and conserve open space.

"Out grant investments work to bolster our vision for the strength of our economy, the vibrancy of our communities, the health of our families and our quality of life in Pennsylvania," DCNR Secretary Richard Allen said. "These grants allow us to partner with communities so that they can expand and improve the wonderful assets that make the places we call home vital and attractive."

Funding for the grants comes from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Key 93), the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener 1), and federal funding sources.