There’s something different about Billy Bell Park.
The park, one of South Strabane Township’s four community parks, underwent renovations earlier this summer, and the township is putting the finishing touches on the upgrade.
“It was time,” said township manager Brandon Stanick. “The existing playground was approximately 20 years old.”
Construction of the new playground, which includes an updated play structure, swing sets and a sliding board, began in June.
“It checks all the boxes for accessibility,” said Stanick. “We’re looking to complete two additional handicapped-accessible (parking) spaces within the week.”
The project was funded through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Park Rehab and Development funding, said Stanick. Last October, South Strabane received a grant for $46,100 from DCNR’s 2020 Community Conservation Partnerships Program.
The money was used to update Billy Bell Park, which sits on 6.3 acres of land off Manse Street in Washington and offers a variety of outdoor entertainment, including two baseball fields, one soccer field and a basketball court.
“There’s a path that you can walk, and the scenic views, it’s just relaxing,” said Erica Santmyer, a Belle Vernon native who now lives in Washington. “When you need to catch your breath, it’s great.”
The walking path Santmyer loves is a paved half-mile trail with eight exercise stations, which many parents use while waiting for their children’s activities to end. Santmyer said that while the walking trail is her favorite feature at Billy Bell Park, her son, Xavier Liggett, is a fan of the playground.
“They have a lot of new stuff for the kids to play on,” she said, noting that the new equipment was a big hit with her son when the two visited Billy Bell late last week.
A large pavilion with electricity, water and restrooms is also available to rent and hosts several sports gatherings and milestone celebrations every year. The pavilion is a popular venue for graduation and birthday parties, baby showers and family reunions.
“My neighborhood has their yearly potluck there,” said Jolene Garrett, who lives near the park and walks the half-mile trail often. “It’s in a good neighborhood and easy to park.”
Those additional handicapped-accessible parking spaces will make parking even easier during a summer that has seen a rise in park-goers across the nation.
Both Santmyer and Garrett agree that Billy Bell Park is a staple of the community.
“The park is important to bring the community together,” said Santmyer. “It’s nice.”