A community effort

Joleyn Swirniuk received a kiss from her canine Kadence while enjoying the rock garden which is part of the DeLong Park in Washingtonville.

WASHINGTONVILLE — Residents believe efforts which started with the revitalization of a park are leading to an increased sense of community pride throughout Washingtonville.

Kit Kelley, a member of the Washingtonville Revitalization Committee (WRC), said the committee has been meeting monthly to discuss and implement ideas to revitalize the community spirit of Frank DeLong, a philanthropist known for his generosity to the community in the early 1900s.

“The ambitions of this committee has so far resulted in the DeLong Park, on the site of the DeLong Memorial School grounds,” Kelley said.

The park, Kelley said, is situated on five acres of land which were donated to Washingtonville by the Danville Area School District in the 1990s.

Sixty trees, donated by PPL Electric Utilities, were recently planted by volunteers both in the park and at several other locations throughout the community. Flowers donated by Kurt Weiss also decorate the area.

A sign was recently installed at the entrance to the park, which includes a couple of raised-bed gardens used by the community and a rock garden.

Joleyn Swirniuk, a former art teacher who moved to Washingtonville from New Jersey last year, serves on the committee and spearheaded the creation of the rock garden.

“The heart of this rock garden project was to unify the community,” Swirniuk said.

She estimates the garden contains 200 small rocks, all painted by children from the community.

“The rock garden was one of our first projects,” Kelley said.

A day was set aside for children in the community to paint creative designs on the rocks. Committee members were pleasantly surprised as dozens of participants turned out to paint the rocks.

Swirniuk often walks through the community and sees children looking at the collection of rocks.

“I’ve seen people standing, sitting on the corners (of the garden),” she said. “I’ve seen kids rearranging their rocks.”

She hopes to lead additional craft projects for children in conjunction with the community’s revitalization efforts. Swirniuk is happy to see children enjoying the garden, and the community.

“It makes your heart leap,” she said. “There’s a sense of fulfillment. That continues to ignite and keep alive the ideas that I have.”

Recently, Kelley said $925 was raised through a community yard sale. Those funds will be used to assist with the purchase of a swing set for the park.

While the five acres was long considered a park, Kelley said it was only recently that the community came to understand that.

“Until the sign was installed, the community did not realize this was a park,” Kelley said.

Frank Dombroski, president of Washingtonville borough council and a WRC committee member, said it’s like a “dream come true” to see the park coming to life.

“I had always envisioned having something really nice out here for the people of Washingtonville,” he said.

Kelley said the WRC is comprised of volunteers from all walks of life.

“It’s a community effort,” he said. “It’s not one or two people... One of the most impressive things about the revitalization is it’s across the generations.”

Between 30 and 40 people helped with the tree planting, held earlier in the spring.

“It’s good to see people coming together,” Dombroski added. “People are taking a lot more pride in the community.”

In addition to the work being done by volunteers with the WRC, other efforts are also taking place to spruce up the community.

Dombroski said some property owners are fixing up their homes. In addition, he said the borough will be having a couple of old-fashioned street lights installed. Planters will also be hung from some street lights.

As part of the revitalization efforts, Kelley said use of Washingtonville’s DeLong Memorial Community Hall is being encouraged for educational purposes. Programs to be held in conjunction with the Montour Area Recreation Commission, the local watershed group, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Penn State Master Gardeners are all in the planning stages.

Volunteers involved with the WRC are not surprised to see the community embracing revitalization efforts.

“The community was hungry for something,” Dombroski said. “They wanted it to be more neighbor friendly, like it once was... Thank you to everyone who has been involved with this project.”

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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