I grew up in Warren, and sometimes before work or during lunch I like to visit some of my old haunts from when I was a kid.
I've checked out the fieldhouse behind Warren G. Harding High School, drove past my old apartment in Jamestown Village (noticed the giant rock we used to color with chalk was still there), saw that the old Ianazone's across from WGH?is now a check-cashing store, and visited the site of the old Western Reserve High School.
Recently, I took some lunch to the old Packard Park to see what was going on there these days. Last time I?went through there, it was covered in snow, and I had flashes of sled riding down the hill by the baseball dugouts, and steering madly to avoid busting your face into a brick wall.
There's a lot of good memories of Packard Park. We used to play on the giant wooden playsets; one looked like a big ship, another had a big, flat metal slide that burned your backside if you slid down during the midday sun. There were the bright red and yellow swings and monkeybars, and a fast-spinning merry-go-round, which is the real last legal drug, if you don't include spinning the swing chains as tight as they can get and then letting go, praying your skin doesn't get pinched.
Walking through the gate and onto the bridge that went over the Mahoning River always got me a little nervous, like it was the bridge from the Temple of Doom and if you fell, crocodiles would chomp you up, bones and all.
And don't get me started on the pool. As the Tribune described in Friday's Prime Time story, the Packard Park pool was awesome. Every piece of childhood summer pool nostalgia as seen in "The Sandlot" is true. I loved that pool, and the city was never the same after they filled it with cement.
But when I went back to the park recently, it didn't seem as fun as I remembered. The was some new playground equipment, but the older stuff was in disrepair. The grass was overgrown, and weeds were all over. The Asian-inspired pagoda was tagged with graffiti and strewn with trash. The bridge was still scary, but also covered in graffiti. I found a neat tree with a small Hobbit-like hole in the trunk, but it was filled with old chip bags and fast-food wrappers.
Disappointed, I went to neighboring Perkins Park, remembering it was smaller than Packard back in the day. It was actually nicer than Packard is now, with a new play area and nice baseball fields, but the pavilions were again strewn with trash and covered in graffiti.
I picked up as much trash as I could, and mentioned the state of the parks to a councilman. I don't know if a Leslie Knope from a fictional parks and recreation department can come to the rescue, but we can all do a little to improve the parks. Warren deserves nice parks for kids to play, or for adults to reminisce.
So next time you take a walk in the park, leave it a little better than when you arrived. Just watch out for those river crocs.
Got a favorite local park? Share some park memories at ssepanek@ tribtoday.com, or comment on this story at www.tribtoday.com.