Future of Tamaqua playground unclear
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Shawn Flaim of McAdoo plays with his son Sylis, 2, at Tamaqua's North and Middle Ward Park. The future of the park is uncertain due to lack of community support and funding.
Tamaqua's popular North and Middle Ward Playground, located adjacent to SR309, will be without an active association by the end of this month.
"Most people don't realize that volunteers take a big role in operating, sponsoring and maintaining Tamaqua's parks," said Kim Woodward, 14-year park volunteer and current president of the North and Middle Ward Playground.
"Some responsibilities consist of cutting grass, shoveling snow, repair equipment, building maintenance, cleaning, garbage removal, fundraising, enforcing rules, public relations, bookkeeping and operating the concession stand."
Woodward and fellow association members blame the upcoming disbandment on numerous things; most of which evolve around the stated lack of labor and financial support from the community and borough.
"Residents need to step up soon if they want this playground to remain open," said Woodward. "Four of us can no longer afford and volunteer enough time to keep the park running.
"Another reason we are leaving is that our own kids have grown older and are moving onto better things," said Woodward. "We want to follow and stay involved in their lives."
Other association and park volunteers leaving are vice president and five-year volunteer Steve Bonetsky, secretary and 20-year volunteer Dee Bonetsky and treasurer and 20-year volunteer Jody Kellner.
"The park is open because of dedicated volunteers," said Woodward, who added that most of Tamaqua's parks are leased from the borough. "We honestly don't know what the borough will do at the end of the month."
"$2,000 of CDBG funds was put aside months ago by the council for our concession stand's roof repairs. It was even in the newspaper a couple times," said Steve Bonetsky. "When we ask for the money, the borough tells us it could take a year or more to receive the funds. Our roof is bad now."
"The only way we get funding is through our concession stand," said Woodward, who added that it could take three months to raise $100. "Despite this, we routinely add equipment and provide needed repairs to the park."
"We supported the organization the best we could," said Tamaqua councilman and recreation Committee Chairman Dave Mace.
"The association had a more immediate need than the funding process could uphold," added Mace, who said that allotted funding takes time to pass through borough council.
"If no one steps up to take care of the park, it will definitely hurt the kids, said Dee Bonetsky. "As an association, we held events regularly. It is now too much for only four people to do by ourselves.
"This job is for people who care, have time and are possibly starting a family in the area," added Bonetsky.
"We (association members) joined the association for the kids," said Woodward. "I feel the focus is going off the kids because of the high demand for other responsibilities. In addition to spending more time with our own kids, we feel that we have to let this go to have the borough do what they should."
Mace, who expressed his appreciation to the volunteers for their many years of service and improvements to the park, is encouraging anyone to call the borough if they want to get involved with the North and Middle Ward Association or any of Tamaqua's parks. The borough phone is (570) 668-3444.