By Konstantine Fekos
Education and recreation are the driving forces behind the recent maintenance of “Pocket Park,” tucked between the Department of Environmental Protection parking garage and former Windstream building on Market Street, according to local agency representatives.
Volunteers and leaders from the ARC of Crawford County, Meadville Redevelopment Authority and Crawford County Master Gardeners met at the park last Friday to clear dead plants, rake leaves and remove weeds from the soil areas and brick walkway.
“ARC usage is the main goal,” according to Jill Withey, MRA executive director, who says park maintenance has been a long time coming. “This gives the ARC a nice in-town project and handles maintenance for us.”
Master Gardeners are expected to educate ARC clients and staff, honing their gardening and planting skills while they in turn beautify the compact area with flowers and fresh foliage. The ARC advocates for the rights of citizens who have intellectual disabilities, according to its website, enhancing their lives by promoting maximum independence and affording them opportunities for enrichment in their communities.
Ginny Steiger, Master Gardener representative, helped ARC clients and staff with initial trimming and cleanup Friday morning and afternoon.
“The plan is to clear out the area and fill in some spots with hostas and other plants,” she said. “Hopefully next spring we can find a sunny spot for a pollinator garden to attract some butterflies.”
Steiger also hopes to bring foresters and educators from the Penn State Cooperative Extension to survey the site.
“(Master Gardeners) will teach us how to plant bulbs and mulch around the existing plants,” said Diane Albaugh of the ARC, who helped conceptualize the project with Withey and Steiger. “Next spring we hope to plant regular annuals and keep the park mowed and weeded.”
“The clients and staff are excited about fixing it up and maintaining it for the future,” said Randy Gorske, ARC executive director. “It’s actually a nice, peaceful place.”
ARC maintenance crews cleaned up the park’s two benches prior to Friday’s groundwork, Gorske said.
The park was originally created with the leftover space from the DEP building and garage, according to Withey.
As staff and capacity in the surrounding buildings decreased over time, she explained, the park was left untended.
While there’s no set date for the project’s completion, Gorske believes a fresh fix-up will ultimately benefit the city and all agencies involved.
“It’s a way for us to give back and engage our individuals in things they make them more responsible in general,” he said. “Now we’ll actually be able to come out here, sit in the shade and have lunch.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.