First, let’s start by thanking the 30 neighbors who showed up to discuss ideas about the Tot Lot. It was such a great group of people with diverse thoughts on what the Tot Lot could become. There were a few neighbors whose homes border the park and their perspectives were extremely important to the conversation. We also had representatives from Project Share, Friends Meeting House, & Carlisle Sunrise Rotary. The meeting started off with the announcement that someone who couldn’t attend was so excited to support the project, especially the aspects including growing food, that they have offered to donate $1000 to the project! After the meeting we also had an offer from a lawyer in case we need assistance setting up a non-profit to hold the funds raised for park improvements. We are humbled by the generosity that we have already seen from people, not just with monetary donations but also just showing up and giving us their time to share ideas.
Part of the reason the for the discussion about the park renovation comes from the factories being redeveloped in our NW neighborhood. There have been multiple meetings to discuss how those areas will be redeveloped and what our community will look like after it is completed. Part of those ideas include areas that aren’t related to retail development and it means that the community has to put forth a collective effort to make changes that we want to see here. Since some funds are available through the “Elm Street Planning Grant”, we have an opportunity to get this project started now and not have to wait to see what else will be developing on the old factory parcels.
Christopher J Brown from Derck & Edson Associates was able to attend the meeting and gather up all of our thoughts and ideas for the park so he can pull together an initial design and report back to us in 4-6 weeks.
The meeting started with some general comments about issues that need to be addressed with the current state of the park. Some of these were:
- Homeless sleeping in park after shelters close
- Increased lighting for safety
- Hidden areas where police can’t see initially when pulling into the park
- People are no longer using the park so there is an increase in crime
- There used to be T-Ball games there but some people didn’t like the cars parking near their homes and after awhile the games ceased.
Chris mentioned that lighting can look very differently from the way the park currently is lit. Right now, there are just a few high, pole lights that end up shadowing people’s faces that are below. Lights can be installed along paths or in trees giving a softer light at eye level and making the park seem more inviting and safer. It would also keep from shining in homes as much as the high lights would. People discussed how sometimes they do call the police when they see unwanted activity in the park and it was reiterated that residents need to actively continue doing this to show that it is coming continually from multiple people. It was mentioned that there used to be an issue with people loitering at 2 West Penn on the benches but calls were made to the police and they started to cite them and it isn’t as big of a problem now.
From there our discussion turned to the possibilites for the park. Here is a list of some points discussed:
- Keeping some of the green lawn for sports. It seems like keeping it green and not necessarily upgrading the baseball diamond would allow for the space to be used more easily for multiple sports.
- Creating a walking path around the edges of the park and having some edible landscaping interspersed throughout. This would give people a reason to fully use the space and limite the ‘dead’ spaces where the park is underused.
- Adding more color to the park to invite more children
- Playground equipment is one of the biggest expenses. One possibility is to use ‘natural playscape’ ideas that allow kids to use their imaginations to climb and play on more natural elements. It also would keep some costs down and expand options by using some reclaimed or recycled materials instead of buying all equipment from a company.
- Creating seating throughout the park and incorporating planters into the benches to make edible landscaping accessible everywhere.
- Parking was discussed for the 5 houses that are along the entrance from West St. The thought was to create 5 designated spots for the homes and create more structure for the rest of the parking area so more spaces could be defined.
- After discussing some issues with people loitering in the pavilion, the idea came up to move the pavilion to a more central location in the park. It could then possibly be used as a place where performances could be staged.
- Could there be different, more flexible, seating in the pavilion other than the picnic benches? They are great to eat at but not great if you wanted to have a meeting there or have everyone face the same direction
- The idea of creating a small neighborhood park association was brought up so neighbors would have some sense of ownership of the park. These would be the people most likely to be near the park and watch over it. Some simple maintenance could be addressed by them or issues could be isolated so the neighborhood org could ask for volunteers to help assist with a project if needed.
- Maintenance of the park would have to be distributed between Parks and Rec and the neighborhood. Parks and Rec currently mow the lawn and empty trash/mulch. The Downtown Neighborhood Connection coordinates bi-annual cleanups so one area of focus would turn to the park. Beginning and end of season clean up/prep could be done. This would enlist volunteers from the neighborhood.
- If edible landscaping & fruit trees would be planted, there we have to be better documentation posted letting people know not only what is there but what is ready for harvest.
- The edible landscaping could be a focus for monthly park potlucks for the neighborhood. Encourage people come out and pick food and eat with the community. Could have a bigger harvest event in the fall.
- No trees should be planted near the privately owned solar panels
- It was encouraged to upgrade the decaying grills. An idea was raised to instead install a larger fireplace that could be used for grilling or to make better use of the park in the colder months. Kids could be playing in the playground while parents enjoy a warmer shelter.
- Some projects in the park could be worked on completed by Carlisle groups that have related skills. Ideas: vo-tech school could have masonry students build the fireplace if materials are provided, eagle scouts could have adopt a project with in the park to complete, Penn State Master Gardeners (or similar group) could donate edible landscaping plants/trees/shrubs
- Having a to day to get some things built for the park and inviting the community to come out and help work on it (not unlike an amish barn raising).
- Should the park be renamed from a Tot Lot to something else? The equipment isn’t really for ‘tots’ so it might be misleading.
- Installing a water fountain
- Installing chess tables
- Adding swings
- Adding small green house canopies over some of the beds to allow for some growth during the winter months.
- Adding one basketball hoop. This wouldn’t compete with what is at Memorial park but would give kids who want to shoot ball access to at least one hoop elsewhere.
Those are the main notes from the meeting. The meeting closed by going over what next steps will happen. Chris will return in 4-6 weeks with a design based on what he heard from everyone. If we are happy with that, we can then proceed to present it to the Parks and Rec board. Once Parks and Rec approve of this, we will have to take it in front of Carlisle Borough Council for final approval. It looks like we have a few thousand dollars most likely available through the Elm Street Grant but we will most likely need additional donations to get all of this accomplished. The next time we meet up we will have to discuss ideas about this. Part will be contacting organizations and businesses who could give donations but it will also come from individual donations. It is not only about money though, we will need people to donate their time to help build this park so we can’t stress that everyone can help to support this project not only in a monetary way.
We will be in touch once we hear back on the design. Please feel free to contact us if you want to voice any other opinions about what should be seen in the Park. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further reading about our original ideas that started this discussion.