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Outdoors: Playtime in the Park

by on May 01, 2017 2:38 PM

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in late spring, Tom Tudek Memorial Park in Ferguson Township is humming with activity. The butterfly garden is full of fluttering wings as flowers begin to bloom, shouts of cheering and laughter drift in from the playground and over a children’s soccer game, in the distance, dogs can be heard barking playfully as they frolic in their own park, and bicycle bells are ringing on the bike path.

It’s the perfect place for Pam Wertz of Bellefonte to take her two daughters, Lucy, 2 and Bella, 8.

“We have some amazing parks in Centre County,” Wertz says. “I like taking my kids to Spring Creek or Tudek because, with their age difference, there’s something they can both do.” 

While Lucy finds happiness on the smaller slides and in the baby swing, Bella can bring her basketball and play hoops, while her mom keeps an eye on her, from Lucy’s side.

“Talleyrand is cool, too, because we can feed the ducks and watch them swim,” Wertz says. “Plus, Lucy is obsessed with trains, and there’s a stationary train there that she loves to see and a great water fountain — it’s another park that keeps everyone entertained.”

Centre County has an impressive number of parks for families to enjoy, including about 51 in State College, plus two outdoor pools and a nature center, and two scenic parks and a pool in Bellefonte’s borough.

Jeff Hall, sports supervisor for Centre Region Parks and Recreation (CRPR), is in charge of scheduling and divvying up the playing fields and diamonds for the many sports leagues for adults and children.

“Outdoor-wise, we’re busy the start of April until November,” says Hall, noting that the Center Region Center is open year-round.

CRPR has a staff of 19 full-time employees, not including seasonal maintenance workers, lifeguards, and camp leaders, to manage its 1,020 acres and continually check the safety of equipment. Tudek, at 87 acres, is the biggest park operated by CRPR, which maintains parks in the Borough of State College, College Township, Harris Township, Ferguson Township, and Patton Township. Smaller parks, such as the Sydney Friedman Parklet and Nittany Village park, still offer picnicking space and some playing equipment.

According to Hall, Bernel Road Park, near University Park Airport, is fairly new and growing in popularity. With an airport-themed playground, an 18-hold disc golf course, paved walking trails, tennis courts, and picnic pavilions, the unique park offers a variety of activities.

For dog owners, dogs who are kept on their leashes and immediately cleaned up after are welcome in the Borough of State College only at Lederer Park, Walnut Springs Park, and in Orchard Park on the perimeter sidewalks. Pets are welcome in the township parks under the same stipulations, just as long as they are not in the playground equipment areas. Tudek also offers an off-leash fenced-in area — big dogs and small dogs have their own places to play. In Patton Township, the Patton Woods Recreation Area (formerly Circleville Woods) allows dogs to be off leash as long as they are within sight distance of their owner.

According to Don Holderman, the assistant manager of the Borough of Bellefonte, dogs kept on their leash are allowed at all of their parks — Talleyrand, Governor’s, Masullo Park off of Reynolds Avenue, Triangular Park by the Lamb Street Bridge, and Krauss Park by the Gamble Mill. He says each park in Bellefonte has its own personality.

“Talleyrand is more historic and it’s in our downtown, so it gets a lot of pedestrian traffic,” he says. “It offers a nice playground utilized by a lot of families, plus there are the ducks, the creek, the gazebo, and a nice one-fifth of a mile walking path. It’s unique in its proximity to downtown. Governor’s is more of a picnic area with pavilions and more or less used in the summertime. Masullo Park a nice getaway for dogs to play, and its surrounded by Spring Creek and Logan Branch on two edges. Krauss Park is small, quiet place. It’s a very small park, a lot of people use it to fish.”

Families that want to cool off with a swim can enjoy the Park Forest pool and William Welch pool in State College, and the Governor’s Park pool in Bellefonte.

“Bella is in the YMCA summer camp and spends more of her time there swimming, making crafts, playing games,” said Wertz. “They have a playground and pavilions too so in the summer we’ll pack a picnic — play for awhile in the morning, have our lunch and go to the pool to cool off, it’s a great facility.”

Baseball, basketball, volleyball, bocce, tennis, disc golf, and hiking are all offered at the various parks in the Centre Region. Additionally, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center on Puddintown Road offers a unique experience for visitors. Its mission is to educate and inspire people about the natural world, and to instill a passion for the environment through science, history, culture, and art.”

As a parent who recently moved from the Washington, DC, area to State College, Wertz says she appreciates all that the parks have to offer and also the people that go to the parks.

“Most of the parents seem really friendly and the parks feel safe,” she says. “They stand alone, they’re away from busy roads so I don’t have to worry about cars, and they’re all really clean. We’re really lucky to have such nice facilities.”


Rebekka Coakley is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia.
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