NEIGHBORHOOD EFFORT Residents panel seeks revival of Austintown park

Township officials say they can't afford major park projects.
AUSTINTOWN -- A committee of local residents is being formed to consider options for the future of Wedgewood Park off Lancaster Drive.
Carrie Sturgeon, an Edinburg Drive resident helping to form the committee, said residents want to improve the park in an effort to address vandalism and other problems stemming from the property.
"It's getting out of control," Sturgeon said. "There's no activity back there; the kids run free. When you have activity, you don't have the problems."
Neighbors also have complained about teens' drinking and having paint ball fights in the park. Sturgeon said that several Edinburgh Drive homes have been hit by paint balls and that her family's dogs also have been targets of paintball guns.
The Lancaster Drive section of the 15.5-acre park has baseball diamonds with concrete dugouts that have not been used this summer, as well as a pavilion and a former in-ground swimming pool that is filled with black slag. The rest of the park, which also borders yards on Claridge and Edinburg drives, is marked by woods and a portion of Axe Factory Run.
Edinburg Drive resident Carolyn Senedak said residents also want to improve the park for the families in the area. Senedak noted there are few other parks for families living on the east side of the township.
"We want to turn it around and make it a positive thing for the kids," she said.
Meeting with trustees
Senedak and Sturgeon helped organize a meeting between residents and township trustees Monday evening about the future of the park. About 50 residents attended.
Ideas for the park discussed at the meeting included creating an organized area for paint ball competitions, building a skateboard park, and creating a bike trail and walking trails around Axe Factory Run.
"Everybody was willing to participate," said Trustee David Ditzler, who added that he appreciated the input of the residents.
The park was established about 40 years ago by developer John Shutrump, who was building homes in the area. It was privately owned and operated as a swim club until 1997, when the trustees bought it from the struggling Wedgewood Park Community Club. Trustees paid $61,000 of the club's debts in exchange for the land.
Township officials filled in the swimming pool with slag, and the former pool house fell into disrepair. They sought to have the pool house knocked down earlier this year, but no demolition companies expressed interest in the work.
Joyce Gottron, the township's parks and recreation supervisor, said township staff later demolished the pool house.
Austintown Little League used the baseball diamonds until moving to their own diamonds before this summer, Gottron said.
Short on funds
Both Ditzler and Gottron stressed that the township does not have the money for any major capital improvements in the park. Senedak said she hopes to work with the township to raise funds for the park and enlist the help of community organizations to improve the property.
She added that the committee will be looking for volunteers to help work on the park.
Those interested in joining the committee or participating in the park project should call Gottron's office at (330) 793-0718.

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