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New plan envisions more open space, fresh veggies and community night in Easton’s West Ward

Community nights where residents can pick up locally grown produce, listen to live music and watch cooking demonstrations, and a weekly free summer program for young children at Vanderveer and Centennial parks will be coming to Easton’s West Ward next month.These are some of the more immediate goals being implemented from a new West Ward plan that was officially adopted by City Council on Wednesday night.Under that same plan last month, new flower planters were installed along Ferry Street and the Easton Ambassadors extended their reach further into the neighborhood, now including an area from Seventh to Thirteenth streets as part of their coverage.“We have a goal of helping the West Ward, as we have in the past, but maybe a little bit more,” said Mayor Sal Panto Jr., who said the new plan being overseen by the Greater Easton Development Partnership is more focused on community engagement than past efforts.The plan serves as a guideline for potential future projects, he said.The plan is being funded through a Neighborhood Partnership Program administered by the state and grants.The 71-page plan, introduced to City Council in March, eventually envisions a revamped Vanderveer Park with basketball courts and an outdoor gathering space in a parking lot at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church on Washington Street.Amy Boccadoro, who is the new manager of the West Ward Community Initiative, said updates to Vanderveer Park are considered the second phase of a plan to overhaul Cottingham Stadium across from Paxinosa Elementary School.The school board will vote at its next meeting whether to move forward, which would involve setting up a steering committee to review sketch plans.“Right now the whole park will be used as a staging area while Cottingham is being rebuilt. It’s a great opportunity to come in and revamp that space,” Boccadoro said.One of the major aspects of the West Ward plan is identifying ares of open space.Also new this summer are plans to open Cottingham stadium to the general public from 7 a.m. to dusk so they can use the track and field there, Boccadoro said.The plan for the lot at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church on Washington Street is still in the early stages, Boccadoro said.Work on the new West Ward plan started last year when the city hired Camiros Ltd., a Chicago urban planning firm, for $63,000, paid for with grants. The city has gone multiple studies of the struggling neighborhood, but this is the first time it hired an outside consultant.Meetings with about 200 residents and stakeholders were also held last spring and summer.Goals for the first year of the new West Ward Community plan are more modest.They include enhancing lighting, creating programs and activities for young people, launching a neighborhood newsletter, supporting the community garden program, bringing more public art installations to the neighborhood, and helping to improve building facades.In April, the plan received $1.2 million through the state’s Neighborhood Assistance Program, a tax credit program through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.Under that program, local corporate sponsors who contribute a minimum of $50,000 per year for six years qualify for an 80 percent tax credit. The state program requires the partnership to have at least $100,000 in commitments for each of the six years.The businesses supporting the initiative include Lafayette Ambassador Bank, People’s Security Bank & Trust, PNC Bank and HM Life Insurance Co., a Highmark company.They will contribute $200,000 per year for the next six years.NEW WEST WARD PROGRAMS Community Veggie Stand at 10th and Pine streets: Will feature free vegetables harvested from South Side Community Garden and Lafayette College’s LaFarm. Additional events like live music and cooking demonstrations will eventually be added. The stand will be open Thursdays starting in July from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.Park Leader Program: Organized play dates will be led by the local YMCA at Vanderveer and Centennial parks starting Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in July. The group is geared toward kindergarten through fifth grade. It is free and includes a free lunch.For more information contact Amy Boccadoro at 610-330-9947 or visit the new West Ward website at westwardeaston.orgChristina Tatu can be reached at 610-820-6583 or ctatu@mcall.com
Source: Morningcall

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