City park system shrinking

Board targets five rec sites for closure

CLOSING — The tot lot and playground located on Brookline Street is among those targeted for closure by the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation. The board on Thursday announced five city recreation sites would be closed or no longer receive maintenance in an effort to cut costs. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — The Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation has decided to stop maintaining five of the city’s recreational sites, as part of ongoing efforts to cut costs.

The issue was raised during the board’s May meeting, with members noting the board is responsible for the oversight of 12 parks, playgrounds or greenspaces in the city, as well as the Edwin J. Bowman Field and the Panhandle Recreation Trail.

Board members, at their meeting Thursday at Starvaggi Memorial Park, reviewed a list recommended by Parks Executive Director Coty Shingle following a canvass of the properties and their use.

“There are some we need to take action on,” board Chair Edwin Bowman noted.

Among those set for closure are a half basketball court on Beverly Avenue and a green space on Plum Street.

“That plan is already in the process,” Shingle said.

A basketball court located on Sharp Street also will be vacated, according to the recommendations.

“It’s not being used at all,” Shingle said.

Shingle also had recommended shutting down the tot lot playground located on Brookline Street, explaining he never sees children using the site, although he has known of teenagers to be there.

“We find things we shouldn’t find,” Shingle said, while not elaborating. “It doesn’t get used for what it’s supposed to.”

Bowman told Shingle he would need to make sure any playground equipment, fencing or other materials from those locations are removed as part of the closure process.

The fifth location targeted by the recommendations is the Oakland Avenue Field, which will not be closed but the board plans to no longer provide maintenance.

The field is used for part of the year by the Little Steelers youth football team, which Shingle said maintains it during their season.

“We have the early part of the year. That’s when most of the mowing happens,” he said.

Shingle said the field also is the site of a half basketball court and swing set, neither of which receive any use.

That would leave five play areas — the Aaron Davies Memorial Playground on Murphy Avenue, the Bennett Drive Playground, the Dunbar Center Playground on Weir Avenue, the Steve Dorich Memorial Playground on June Street and the Woodlawn Estates Playground on Union Street — along with Starvaggi Memorial Park, Marland Heights Park, Bowman field and the Panhandle Trail remaining on the roster.

Members of the board noted this is not an issue isolated to Weirton.

“Steubenville is going through the exact same thing,” board member Deb Witkowski noted. “It’s not pleasant, but it needs addressed.”

Shingle explained, while Weirton has individuals specifically employed to maintain parks and playgrounds, some communities rely on staff from their Public Works departments or assistance from volunteers and still are looking to make cuts.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)