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Welcome To Indiana offers vision for park on Wayne Avenue

by ELLEN MATIS ematis@indianagazette.net on April 19, 2013 10:55 AM

Welcome to Indiana held its 24th annual membership meeting Thursday at the Rustic Lodge, featuring a presentation of a “vision” for Wayne Avenue improvements.

Dana Henry was this year’s master of ceremonies.

Barbara Hague, of UpStreet Architects, and Shanna Scordo, WTI chairwoman, presented the Wayne Avenue Park Plan. WTI’s vision, according to a brochure, is to transform the area adjacent to the fairgrounds and Mack Park, and across from the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, into a walking park. The area would create a “hub” to connect the KCAC to the fairgrounds and the Hoodlebug Trail, and the campus to the community.

“We’re refocusing on a new set of goals and a renewed determination to make a difference in the community,” Scordo said of WTI.

Hague discussed the current state of the site, showing pictures of the corner of Wayne Avenue and Carter Avenue, and what is envisioned for the space.

“When IUP was going to be building the Kovalchick Center, Welcome to Indiana looked at this site and thought ‘this is really going to be an important and prominent site, what can we do to improve it?’” Hague said.

After consulting with the Mack Foundation and acquiring the lot, they worked to remove garbage, clean up the stream bank, remove old trees, plant new trees and more.

“They say ‘the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second-best time is now,’ and we took that to heart,” she said.

Many factors were considered when developing a plan for the site, according to Scordo, including improvements that are within the organizations’ control, such as the installation of asphalt walking paths, a bridge over the stream, planting displays, outdoor seating, pathway lighting, a drinking fountain for Hoodlebug Trail users and statue art exhibits.

The vision for the park, Scordo said, will cost about $400,000 to become a reality.

In addition, Scordo said that, with funding from key corporate sponsorships, traffic calming tactics, such as a tree boulevard and additional traffic lights, and pedestrian safety installations including crossway signals and lighted crossing, would be possible.

In addition to the Wayne Avenue Park Plan presentation, speakers Jonathan B. Mack, president of the J.S. Mack Foundation, and Deborah Casadei, public information officer of PennDOT, gave brief presentations.

The J.S. Mack Foundation provides to the community and takes care of Mack Park.

“We are committed to making a difference in the community, and it’s an honor … to work with Welcome to Indiana,” Mack said.

He also spoke about the Community Gardens, located within the park, an area of the park that Mack said is a “really neat thing happening there.” He also said that he thinks the gardens are “really bringing the community together.”

The Indiana Community Gardens at Mack Park, as well as Giant Eagle Express, were presented the 2013 Image Awards. Kay Smith, from the WTI Board of Directors, presented the awards, which recognize individuals and business owners who invest in the beautification of an outdoor space.

“By investing in the outdoors, these nominees create a ripple effect,” Smith said, “by encouraging others to follow.”

Nicole Dann-Payne, of the Indiana Community Garden Committee, and Jodie Seybold, of Evergreen Garden Club, accepted the award for the Indiana Community Gardens, which celebrates its one-year anniversary Saturday.

“Our garden is more than just where plants grow,” Seybold said. “It’s the source of various educational opportunities, from the Master Gardeners that do demonstrations to even yoga sessions.”

Seybold said the garden is also a gathering place for community members to enjoy the beauty of the gardens.

Casadei, of PennDOT, discussed Gov. Tom Corbett’s transportation plan, which she said can be found on the Department of Transportation website.

Welcome to Indiana meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce meeting room.

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