Thanks to a joint effort between Town One Streetscapes, Polish Youngstown, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center's horticulture students, Elliott's Garden Center and Davey Tree and Lawn Care, a much-needed handicapped accessible area in Peterson Park is becoming a reality. Crews worked last week to begin the first of three phases to replace the ground brick walkway with brick pavers that will allow wheelchair movement.
Several years ago, TownOne Streetscapes welcomed the Polish Veterans Monument. Since that time, PolishYoungstown has been fundraising and hosting a brick campaign to make the park more accessible. The lava rock that currently covers the park, although attractive, makes it inaccessible for veterans, seniors and others who might be physically challenged.
"We are very excited that MCCTC horticultural students have made the paving of Peterson Park their project for 2013-14 with the support of local landscapers Davey Tree and Elliott's, making this truly a community supported project," said Lisa Lotze, Polish Youngstown's monument project chairperson. "It broke our hearts to see elderly veterans struggle to access the park during our monument installation so we were determined to make this work for them."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Mahoning County Career and Technical Center student Alex Bishard of Springfield, operates the masonry saw as student Anthony Cutrone of Struthers, awaits the cut brick. Both young men are in the horticulture class at MCCTC, but since Bishard is also a senior in the construction class, he holds a 10-hour OSHA certificate to operate the machinery. The two students were part of a dozen who worked on Peterson Park to make it more friendly to veterans in wheelchairs.
The whole thing began last fall when Lotze saw some publicity on the MCCTC horticulture class working on a project in the school's greenhouse. The students were learning landscape techniques by laying in a patio and water feature in a section of the greenhouse that has a dirt floor.
"Lisa saw it and contacted us about doing the project in Peterson Park," said MCCTC horticulture instructor Mary June Emerson.
The task looked perfect for her class and her son, Jarod Emerson, from Davey Tree Service's ground management division, volunteered his expertise in overseeing the project. Last Wednesday, the MCCTC school bus showed up along with Emerson and her son. They immediately went to work to remove the brick from around the monument and began laying the pavers.
Some of the pavers needed to be cut, using a special saw and blade. That task fell to MCCTC senior Alex Bishard from Springfield, who is in the horticulture class as well as the construction class.
"I have my 10-hour OSHA certification card to operate this kind of equipment," he said.
Half the students worked on the new paver paths while the other half spent time pruning and trimming the trees and bushes at the park.
Emerson said the 12-student crew is made up of seniors and juniors, which she said will help in next year's return trip to Peterson Park.
"This was a select group based on ability, knowledge, and some bulk for lifting," Emerson said. "This is normally what my seniors do, but incorporating juniors this year will help them take the lead next year."
Phase I of the project ended on Wednesday with the pavers in place around the monument. The next phase will take place in the spring and the completion will be next fall.
"We are planning on doing it in three phases," Emerson said. "Phase 1 will be the walkway next to the monument, Phase 2 will be the circle and phase 3 will be the wide arched walkway on the west end of the circle. We are doing the project in three phases for several reasons. Mainly, we have a limited time allotment for the students to get out of school."
As for funding, the entire project was done without any government or organizational support. Everything was donated, even the underlayment.
"My son (Jarod) has secured a donation of the underlayment of ground limestone from Elliot's Garden Center on Western Reserve Road," Emerson said. "Kevin Elliot (owner) has requested two corporate size engraved stones for his contribution, one for the business and one for his family."
As for the pavers, memorial bricks are continuing to be sold since the project is ongoing. Interested people can call 330-333-9724 or go online at www.polishyoungstown.org and click on the Veterans Memorial tab.
To continue support for the project, a wine and vodka tasting fundraiser will be held to support the project from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Wittenauer Gallery located across from Peterson Park in Poland Village. The work of local artist Tom Antonishak will be complemented with a sampling of wine and vodka presented by Vintage Estates. Proceeds from the evening will be used to complete the paving necessary to make Peterson Park accessible to all who wish to enjoy the history and splendor of the Veterans monument and the statue of the Revolutionary War heroes Generals Pulaski and Kosciuszko. Information on the event is available online at www.polishyoungstown.org.
Visiting the work on the monument on Thursday was Poland Town One Streetscapes President Larry Warren. He said he was pleased with the effort and spoke highly of the students and Emerson.
""I have worked for MCCTC and personally know what fine work the students do," he said.