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A community-wide effort gives Gratz-area Children
A New Place To Play
Story by Tom Degnitz

Gratz Borough officials hope to have the new playground equipment available for public use by the end of this week. (Sentinel photo by Duane Good)

Thanks to a community-wide effort, Gratz-area children now have a new place to play.

Up-to-date playground equipment was installed at the Gratz Borough Park Sept. 6. Now, as many 43 children at one time can enjoy what is now available.

The installation day was preceded by almost three years of  effort spearheaded by the borough’s Parks and Recreation Committee.

Around 2012, committee members decided that the park was sorely in need of playground equipment that was more modern. The existing offerings did not meet the latest state safety requirements and also were not handicapped-accessible.

With both the fun and well-being of the community’s children in mind, Sandy Reed and Sue Herb started looking at catalogs as well as what other communities had in place.

Planning. Once they determined that some affordable options were available, Reed and Herb contacted Dauphin County and began a lengthy proposal for obtaining the necessary funding through the county’s Gaming Grant program.

Their proposal called not only for new equipment, but also an enhanced concession stand as well as permanent restroom facilities. It was decided that at least $100,000 would be requested.

Reed and Herb made the proposal before county Gaming Commission officials in late 2013. They stressed not just the need for newer equipment but also pointed out how the project would expand the usefulness of the borough park, which can simultaneously host several athletic events.

Impressed by the work that Reed, Herb and their associated had put into the proposal, the requested $100,000 was awarded.

The grant was augmented by an anonymous donation of $11,000. In addition, local businesses sponsored metal benches located throughout the park.

Installation. Once the funding was secured and the equipment ordered, Sept. 6 was scheduled as Community Build Day for the installation of the new enhancements, which were purchased from Play World in Lewisburg.

Armed with the necessary tools to assemble the various parts and mix the concrete to give the equipment a permanent foundation, more than two dozen volunteers spent that Saturday getting the new features ready for many hours of enjoyment.

In this case, some assembly was required. Because each playground piece had its own instruction manual and even its own packet of unique nuts and bolts, organizers decided to hire someone with experience to help oversee the process.

Lowell Hartzell of Playground Pros in Newmanstown, Lebanon County  is a 15-year veteran of playground installation projects throughout eastern Pennsylvania. He gently guided the volunteer workforce in how to get the massive amount of parts and fixtures in all the right places.

Since even an army of community volunteers runs on its stomach, the equipment assembly team was supported by another crew of volunteers that made sure each worker stayed hydrated in the early September heat and was fed properly. Ample supplies of soup, sandwiches and desserts were on hand to sustain the crowd of willing workers.

Wiconisco-based One Stop Recycling hauled away  the old equipment.

The finishing touches. Once the new equipment had been assembled and installed, another phase of work will be necessary. Contractors will install the  vapor barrier, stones and mulch that are necessary to finish off the revamped facility.

Along with the individual and business donations, the Parks and Recreation Committee purchased several new litter receptacles and a handicapped-accessible swing. In addition, the Lykens Twp.-based Diamond Jubilee Post No. 2385, Veterans of Foreign Wars, purchased a new bicycle rack.

On behalf of the committee, Reed and Herb thanked  the many people, businesses and organizations that helped to make the project possible.


PRE-EDIT: 23.5’’



Gratz Borough Parks and Recreation Committee, Sandy Reed (left) and Sue Herb are on hand for Community Build Day Sept. 6. Reed and Herb helped to spearhead the Playground Project.



Like pieces of a giant puzzle, each segment of the project had its own unique parts, nuts and bolts.



Andy Smeltz (left) and Ty Reed assemble  a piece of equipment.



Lowell Hartzell of Playground Pros in Newmanstown, Lebanon County, coordinates the playground equipment assembly.




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