Allentown to rebuild Franklin Park this summer - The Express Times
June 21, 2012 | The Express Times | Link to article
An Allentown park that fell into disrepair, and has been the subject of fears about crime in the past, should be completely rebuilt by the end of the summer.
A $70,000 project will establish a completely new Franklin Park, which is located at 14th and Emmett streets, adjacent to St. Stephen Outreach Community Center.
"It's in very bad condition, to the point that we can't even repair it anymore," said Rick Holtzman, Allentown's superintendent of parks. "It's just a playground that needs to be rebuilt."
One of the city's oldest playgrounds, up to 1,200 people coming from the community center use the park every day, including about 240 preschool-aged children, said Rev. Maritza Torrez-Dolich.
It is also in the vicinity of two recent fatal shootings, including the Dec. 22 shooting of 22-year-old Angel Millayes in his home two blocks away, and the Jan. 7 killing of Hagos Mezgebo at the intersection of Emmett and Fountain streets.
"Franklin Park has had a bad rap when it comes to gangs, vandalism, graffiti," Councilman Ray O'Connell said during a city council committee meeting today.
But city officials and park advocates alike say problems with crime around the park have improved recently due to the installation of a surveillance camera and residents taking more of an interest.
"You see more and more of an investment from the people who live in the community, and that's the key," said Torrez-Dolich, an outreach pastor and clergy leader with Congregations United for Neighborhood Action.
"You get them involved and they will work to help keep the park clean and safe for everyone," she said. The half-acre park will receive new playground equipment including slides, a walk bridge, swings, a small climbing wall and other amenities, Holtzman said.
Torrez-Dolich said a community garden was installed at Franklin Park in recent weeks, and the city's summer program will be using the flower beds to plant vegetables and do activities with community children.
Franklin Park was discussed at a city council parks and recreation committee meeting, where Allentown Managing Director Fran Dougherty also gave an update on the search for a new parks director to replace Greg Weitzel, who resigned last month.
The city received 24 applications from a nationwide search, including a handful of internal submissions, Dougherty said. An evaluation committee will review the candidates and make a recommendation to Mayor Ed Pawlowski.
Pawlowski will then make the choice, which must be confirmed by city council, Dougherty said. The city hopes to choose a final candidate no later than September.
The $70,000 for the Franklin Park project will come from Trexler Trust, which was established by the will of Harry C. Trexler following his death in 1933 to support Lehigh County charities and capital projects.
The trust will also provide $29,177 for signage at the Allentown Trout Nursery, which will spread awareness of the former fish hatchery and highlight its history with the city.