Feature Article - September 2007
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Special Accommodations

Meeting Special Needs with Shelters, Shade and Other Park Structures

By Stacy St. Clair

Built in the Victorian era, Nay Aug had been the focal point of the city's park system and was the principal recreation destination for the burgeoning industrial center that was Scranton in the 1880s. The park was carefully laid out and the installations were substantial. Through the rear of the grounds was a deep gorge that cut through 150-foot stone walls. At the bottom of the ravine was a stream and waterfall. The beautiful piece of land was spared development because, ironically, it had no value to the steel and coal industries that rule the area.

The gorgeous park, however, fell into disrepair in the last half of the century. Its fall mirrored the descent of many Rust Belt cities in the late 20th century. Scranton saw its mills and coal mines close, leaving its residents without work and its downtown businesses struggling to survive.

Under Doherty's leadership, Scrantonians have taken a renewed interest in their city. The mayor has launched an impressive revitalization campaign that has included numerous renovations to Nay Aug Park. So, when Doherty decided Scranton would be among the first in the country to have a treehouse, there was no doubt about where it would go. It would be built in Nay Aug, the crown jewel of the city's restoration efforts.

"Mayor Doherty focused on the renewal of the park, seeing its renewal as a metaphor for the city," said City Solicitor Robert Farrell. "Nay Aug was the perfect place to locate something as spectacular as an accessible treehouse."

The decision to build a community treehouse initially surprised Farrell, who was helping to oversee renovation projects all over the city. At first, he questioned how it would get done. Then he realized how impressive the project really could be. He volunteered to help build the structure and acted as the project manager.

When the city launched the project, officials knew no single source would be able to foot the entire bill, so they turned to a variety of public, federal and private funds. Many community organizations also stepped up with contributions.

A local university housed the construction crew for two months. Large equipment was donated, saving thousands of dollars. And material and labor for the entire roof—split-face cedar shakes with copper flashing—were also donated.