Gov. Shapiro joins Allentown residents, officials at relaunch party for Valania Park
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro stopped by Allentown’s Valania Park on Thursday to celebrate its reopening.
The park was first built near the intersection of Union and North 6th streets in 1976. It had fallen into disrepair before the Rev. Dan Blount led an effort to revive the park.
- Hundreds celebrated the grand reopening of Allentown's Valania Park on Thursday
- Gov. Josh Shapiro said he was at the ceremony "because Allentown matters and parks like this really matter"
- The Valania Park Improvement Project cost $1.8 million, officials said
The $1.8 million renovation-and-expansion project broke ground last summer with city and federal funding, and help from the Harry C. Trexler Trust and Niagara Bottling, which operates a plant in Allentown.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also chipped in two grants worth $250,000. Shapiro told LehighValleyNews.com he was proud the state helped “make this park a reality.”
The governor, who spoke earlier Thursday at Parkland High School, said he made time to join the celebration “because Allentown matters and parks like this really matter.”
“These are gathering places for the community, places where people come together, talk, get to know one another, and kind of break down the barriers that divide us."Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro
“These are gathering places for the community, places where people come together, talk, get to know one another, and kind of break down the barriers that divide us,” Shapiro said.
“As a father of four, I've seen the power of parks to be able to help open up our kids’ eyes to so many new experiences and new people."
Shapiro’s proposed 2023 budget includes $112 million to maintain and improve parks and forests, and almost $3 million to expand resources at the DCNR, his staff said.
“These are the nerve centers of a community," Shapiro said. "This is the heart of a community. And I want you to know that these are places that matter to me, and it matters to your mayor, Mayor [Matt] Tuerk, and your council.”
Credit to a local pastor
Several of the officials who spoke at the celebration said the project to rebuild Valania park would not have happened without Blount’s urging.
The pastor said he has worked for more than a decade to bring the park back to life.
“You asked for green space, and we delivered. I hope you love this space.”Sara Schuh, of SALT Design Studio
“For me, it's been 12 years; for some, less,” Blount said. “But nevertheless, I thank God that we got it done.”
SALT Design Studio and BL Companies served as design consultants for the Valania Park Improvement Project, while Flyway Excavating Inc. completed renovations.
The project included fixing a basketball court; building a “spray-pad,” public restrooms and walkways; and making the park more accessible, officials said.
“You asked for green space, and we delivered,” SALT Design Studio’s Sara Schuh said to the more than 100 people at the celebration. “I hope you love this space.”
Schuh and other speakers, including Blount, urged neighbors and those who use the park to ensure it remains in good condition for years and years to come.
She said it was “so important” that the community was involved in rebuilding Valania Park, “and it's so important that the community take ownership of this space.”
Within five minutes of the ribbon-cutting ceremony’s end, kids were playing in the new spray-pad and the basketball court was full of players, including Mayor Tuerk.