BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Step on to the grassy land at 200 Spruce Street in the borough of Palmyra, between Chestnut and North Grant Streets, and one can feel the good times which occurred there in the past. And if one isn’t careful, he or she will find his or herself sensing the future potential for recreation on the grounds.
Right now, Palmyra’s Fireman’s Park isn’t much to look at or write about. But in a year or so, all of that is going to change.
Fireman’s Park is about to undergo a major facelift. When the renovation project is finished, borough residents will not only have a great place to go to enjoy the outdoors, Fireman’s will be the premiere park in Palmyra.
“I’m just excited to be able to improve the appearance of something in the borough,” said Palmyra borough manager Roger Powl. “It looks pretty 1970s right now. The more uses we can inject into the park, the more people we can attract. It’s an overall update for the whole community.”
“What we’re hoping is that more people will take pride in the ownership of the park,” said Brenda Pera, the assistant borough manager. “What we’re doing is giving it to the community. Everybody needs to take part in that.”
Palmyra borough recently acquired a grant of $200,000 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to renovate Fireman’s Park. Then the community group ‘Palmyra 250th Anniversary Committee’ stepped up and more than matched that amount of funds for the project.
“We have a lot planned,” said Powl. “We want to use the money the best we can. It’s extremely outdated. Right now the condition of the park is not eye appealing, it’s not inviting.”
“That’s a problem,” said Pera. “There are big open spaces for dogs, but it’s not a dog park. The hiking trail will be nice, and we would consider hosting some concert series down the line. And right now it’s not very accessible to everybody.”
One of the most important features of the proposed new and improved Fireman’s Park will be a unique handicap-accessible playground. The early parts of the multi-phased plan also call for the bandstand and the pavillion to be brought up to handicap standards.
A hiking trail around the perimeter of the park will be installed, new parking areas will be created and the baseball field will be spruced up. Depending upon how much of the funds remain, a second phase of the project could include things like the renovation of the current football field – Fireman’s Park has been home to the Palmyra midget football program for years – the addition of a second gridiron, basketball courts, a street hockey court, a skateboard park, a shuffleboard court, quoit boxes, horseshoe boxes and bocci courts.
“My biggest thing is that the closest playground to Palmyra is in Lower Paxton Township,” said Pera. “This will encourage people to bring their children to the park to play. This will be all-inclusive. We’ll be able to hold all types of events there. Handicap accessibility is a big thing for me. When it’s all finished, we’ll have created a nice place for people to go in Palmyra.”
“I just read an article about the United States being the most obese country in the world,” said Powl. “That was surprising to me. We’re sedentary. It seems that kids are either active or they’re not.”
The eight-acre Fireman’s Park also recently expanded when the borough acquired the tract of land just south of the park, between the existing boundary and the railroad tracks. It is a wooded area which will feature benches in the future.
“The treeline area between the park and the railroad will be turned over to the borough,” said Pera. “We predict we will have quite a few train enthusiasts visiting that part of the park. There’s quite a few train enthusiasts, at least more than I knew.”
“People have been using the park as it is,” said Powl. “It definitely needs some work, but it seemed to be OK with them. There wasn’t a lot of complaining. We want to show we are a progressive community that’s moving forward.”
As it is today, Fireman’s Park came into existence in the mid 1970s. Originally farm land, the park was part of the Northside Playground Association before being turned over to the citizen’s fireman.
“Physical activity encourages more people to do things,” concluded Pera, “and it will bring about a sense of community. We don’t have a park like this in this community.”