Topton Borough officials welcomed neighborhood children to its new Tot Lot playground last week.The project was made possible by a $20,000 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant secured by Sen. Mike O'Pake.
"He's been very supportive of Topton," said Anthony Branco, borough manager. "Council has been very supportive, too."
O'Pake presented the check to the Topton Borough Council and the borough's children on Aug. 22.
"It's an honor and privilege to be able to get funding for worthwhile community projects," said O'Pake. "This is for all of you kids."
O'Pake sees a new playground as crime prevention by offering children a healthy recreation.
Branco told The Patriot that the old playground, the Bullet
Boardwalk, is vandalized often. Borough officials wanted to revitalize the Bullet Boardwalk, but they met challenges with vandalism.
They replaced the rope swing. The following day, the swing was cut down and stolen. They replaced the picnic table. The following week, the boards had been removed.
The trouble, Branco said, is the Bullet Boardwalk is located on the furthest side of the Topton Community Park from the borough hall. By the time police receive the report and arrive on the scene, the vandals have fled, Branco said.
Branco hopes that the new playground's location next to the pavilion and the borough hall will help curve the vandalism. Plus, he said the playground is within easy view of the homes across the street. Branco said a number of the neighbors told the borough they would help watch over it.
As for the Bullet Boardwalk's future, the borough plans to revitalize it, but "as it gets destroyed, it gets removed," said Branco.
The playground for ages 5 to 12 includes a play unit, slide, teeter tots and a spinner. It is handicapped accessible with a wood-mulch floor.
"I think it's a great addition to the park and to the community," said Mike Wagaman council member and chairman of the parks and recreation committee.
Borough Financial Officer and Aquatics Facility Manager Marcus Dolny likes that the playground gives area children a place to play rather than roaming about the neighborhood.
Council Vice President Renee Sufrinko and council member Alan Reighn, who is also on the parks and recreation committee, liked that the playground is near the pavilion and borough hall, creating one contiguous space rather than spreading everything out across the park. This enables parents to sit under the pavilion together and watch their children play nearby, they said.
"It's a family-oriented environment," said Reighn. "Beautifying a park helps a community because it means our council feels it's important to do so. Kids will be kids, and you need to give kids a place to be kids. We'd like them to enjoy our park system."
"It's a small town and we want it to have a small town feel so it's very friendly," said Sufrinko.
Dolny said the community response has been "great," noting that he often sees somebody using the playground. He has also received a lot of positive feedback from parents.
"The number of kids here is testament," said Sufrinko.
About 20 children were playing nearby.
In other news, the Topton Borough Council will dedicate the newly completed mural in borough hall at its next meeting on Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m.