New Friends of Constitution Park group seeks members

Apr. 28—CUMBERLAND — Constitution Park is a city treasure that holds childhood memories for many folks in the area, Rock Cioni said.

As a kid, he went to the park's pool for early morning swimming lessons.

"The water was so cold," Cioni said.

Today as a city councilman, he serves as representative to the Parks and Recreation Board, which is working to improve the park.

"We really have a gem and we need to attend to it," Cioni said and added that parks in cities across the country are important for economic development.

He talked of the park's amphitheater, which received upgrades that included electrical work and facade improvements in 2017.

"It's underutilized," Cioni said.

The park is also headquarters for a summer day camp that has a "really dedicated staff," he said.

New signage and a bicycle path might also be in the park's near future, and Cioni envisions artwork such as mosaic murals.

"It's a real resource for us," Cioni said of Constitution Park and added that more funding is needed for improvements.

Friends

A new group that will work with the city's Parks and Recreation Department will be formed to help support the park.

The goal is for members of Friends of Constitution Park to generate ideas for improvements for which the city could obtain grant money.

Cioni said area resident Sue Rudd approached him with the notion to start the Friends group.

Rudd had her first job at the park pool in 1971.

"I was a basket girl," she said of holding personal items for visitors of the pool.

"It was packed all the time," Rudd said. "People were always in the park."

Today, Constitution Park remains a "beautiful place" where people have lunch, work on laptops and take walks.

"It's just pleasant," Rudd said.

Folks who want to join the group are encouraged to email their name, phone number and ideas to Ryan Mackey, director of parks and recreation, at ryan.mackey@cumberlandmd.gov.

Ideas

Mackey said city officials have studied other parks, including in Hagerstown, to consider concepts for additions.

"I've been to Central Park in New York," Mackey said. He was impressed by the park's preservation of historical value combined with some newer amenities. "I was just madly in love with that."

Constitution Park "stays fairly busy," Mackey said and added that park watchmen keep an eye on the area. "And we work very closely with the police department."

He hopes park visitors will embrace the "leave no trace" notion to sustain the area's natural environment.

"Pick up all your trash," Mackey said.

History

According to city officials, Constitution Park and its pool were created on 100 acres and opened to the public on June 25, 1939.

More than 7,000 people attended a grand opening celebration of the park, which was named as result of a contest for school children.

The park's pool was built via a program to employ Americans during The Great Depression.

At certain points in the past, Constitution Park was home to peacocks, deer in pens and a caged bear.

Asset

Numerous online publications tout the importance of urban parks.

Parks are "a source of positive economic benefits," according to the American Planning Association.

City parks strengthen local economies and create job opportunities, the City Parks Alliance states.

"Parks improve the local tax base and increase property values," the National Recreation and Park Association states.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "people who have more access to green environments, such as parks and trails, tend to walk and be more physically active than those with limited access."

Teresa McMinn is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371.