Nestled 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in the Laurel Highland Mountains, is the small community of Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. The borough, encompassed by the 20,000 acres of Ohiopyle State Park along the Youghiogheny River is home to 72 permanent residents.
This close knit community is perhaps the best kept secret in Laurel Highlands. What’s not a secret, however, is the town’s struggle to create an infrastructure that can support tourism for the nearly two million tourists that visit Ohiopyle State Park each year.
When City council member Kate McCarty realized that the town’s current playground, located one block from the state park’s entrance, was in a state of disrepair and needed updating, she sprung into action.
With the support of both the borough council and Ohiopyle State Park, Kate spearheaded a fundraising initiative and formed a playground development team.
She worked closely with Stacie Faust Hall and Dana Mitchell from Ohiopyle State Park, as well as contractor Jim Heinbaugh with Fairchance Construction.
The project took off when the team received a matching grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and allowed the group to hire landscape architect, Nancy Lonnet Roman of Pashek Associates to develop plans. Curtis Bischof of General Recreation was then hired to construct the play equipment and surfacing.
It was essential that the design honor the close-knit community of Ohiopyle and tie in natural elements from the borough’s cherished river while creating a safe, fun, and aesthetically appealing play area. According to Nancy, “Curtis was absolutely wonderful to work with. He was responsive and spent extra time with us before and after to make sure everything went smoothly.”
Stewart on the Green opened in July. Using Landscape Structures’ Play Naturally play structures and a Cedar Forest Products’ pavilion with lighting and two rows of amphitheater seating, the play area implements climbing boulders and slides set against the backdrop of a lush open space. The color scheme blends perfectly with Ohiopyle’s natural surroundings and features new, poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing so that the very smallest borough residents and visitors can enjoy the play area, too.
The old, broken swings that Kate remembers from her childhood have been replaced with new swings. Her favorite elements are the “river” kayaks bolted down that tie into the unique “river pathway” (a blue band of protective playground surface material) incorporating Ohiopyle’s river heritage.
Kate McCarty says, “We’re a ‘river town.’ We wanted to have a look and feel exclusive to the area—something that could only be Ohiopyle—like no other place in any other town. General Recreation’s equipment had the unique features we wanted.”