By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Residents of Shinnston are very blessed to have Ferguson Memorial Park, which has become a hub for lots of community recreational activities and a drawing card attracting lots of visitors.
What do people see when they visit that park? They see playgrounds for children equipped with very nice features; they see a pool utilized by all ages; choice picnic pavilions of all sizes; bocce courts and horseshoe pits available for individual or team play; a performance center for movie nights, theater presentations and concerts; a space to hold events such as Relay for Life, Bike Rodeos, Halloween activities, etc.; or even simple things like walking a pet or getting some exercise. Its benefits are too numerous to mention!
Some community visionaries think having a park creates an “amenity”, and in part, a park IS such; however, studies also say that having a park in a community is better termed as a necessity. One such study by Paul Sherer titled Why America Needs More City Parks & Open Space reveals many of the reasons why parks are NEEDED. They expose people to nature, connect people, reduce crime and juvenile delinquency, improve users’ physical and psychological health … all these things in addition to making cities more attractive places to live and work. Parks also create, Sherer says, a sense of community stewardship … and that has recently been exemplified in Shinnston.
Longtime area resident Willard West is an avid bocce enthusiast, and his love of the sport was proven when he gave MANY volunteer hours to developing the well-utilized bocce courts that have become a popular Ferguson Park feature. But whether you call all of these park features “amenities” or “necessities”, they also require maintenance, upkeep, and improvements – even small ones.
West and others have complained about the odor emanating from the trash cans at the park. He took his complaints to City Council; however, rather than continue to grumble about the offensive odor and scattered trash at the park, he came up with a solution – and one that he volunteered to take on himself (with Council’s approval).
Establishing a plan, Willard made some connections, explaining what he wanted to do and why. “Two men – Howard Martin and Roy Smallwood – and I want to ensure that they get the credit they deserve, are both employed at Mylan in Morgantown, where some very substantial, brand new blue barrels are used for deliveries. They went to the ‘powers that be’ and explained what the barrels would be used for,” Willard stated. “Mylan generously agreed to donate the barrels since they were to be used in our community’s park setting.”
In all, twenty-three 33-gallon barrels (with lids) were donated. At this point, 11 of them are completed. West, with help from Councilman Bill Watson, has attached handles to the lid tops with chains; they have also set posts at various locations where the trash barrels will be positioned. Each barrel will be bolted to a base and to posts so they can’t be vandalized or stolen. In addition, each barrel has a ring clamp on it that West moved to the top of each barrel so that trash bags inserted will be clamped down and will stay in place.
West noted that animals and birds were responsible for picking trash out of the existing open barrels and scattering it throughout the park. Often, the trash included half-eaten food and drinks that were not fully consumed. When the trash was disposed of, some of this remained in the bottom of the barrels, leading to the foul odor.
“I understand that Public Works has a lot of various responsibilities and washing out the trash bins when these odors appear is probably not on their list, so I came up with a solution and was happy to do it,” he said. “The City paid for the handles, chains, bolts, etc. that were needed, and Bill Watson and I provided the free labor. There was an opportunity to solve the problem instead of continuing to register complaints, so we did something about it. With the barrels being donated, the expense was very minimal and it will make our park facility a better place to spend time – absent of the odor and spotty trash. The City Manager has assured me that trash bags will be used to line the barrels and that should help eliminate the problem as well.”
West also contacted a local business – Ace Welding – and they are marking the barrels with “City of Shinnston” lettering so users will be aware that it is City property.
Mr. West added that currently the finished products are locked up and being stored at the pool. “We will finish the remaining barrels during the winter months and we will place them in the Spring. Because the attachment posts have already been put in place, it shouldn’t take longer than a day to install them.”
Locations have already been determined. Two will be placed at the swimming pool, two at the bocce court, one at each of the small picnic pavilions, four at the large pavilion, one at each of the playground areas, and one at each exercise space. In addition, two will be positioned at the Sue Ann Miller trailhead pavilion, one at the public basketball court, and perhaps some of the remainder near the concession stand at the Little League baseball field in the downtown area.
This is a prime example of a citizen taking it upon himself to be a good steward within his community – expecting no benefit from his volunteer actions except to help make Ferguson Memorial Park a more pleasing venue for family activities.