In 1983 when Harborcreek Township took control of Shades Beach Park, formerly owned by Erie County, the park was in bad shape. There was no easy access to Lake Erie. There were few pavilions. The roads were gravel.
Since then, Environmental Stewardship Fund grants, combined with cooperative efforts between the township, parks, community planners, the chamber of commerce, and the Commonwealth, have transformed the park. One improvement to the 27-acre grounds is the addition of Shades Beach Park Playground.
There, two separate play structures cater to both older and younger children. The bright orange and purple equipment for those ages five and older includes a bridge, tunnel, slides, monkey bars, and ladders. A smaller structure shaped like a boat offers younger children a place to play.
“The new state of the art playground offers a safe haven for all of the kids,” said Connie Cruz, parks project coordinator for Harborcreek Township. “Parents can enjoy the serene environment while their kids play. I have seen parents and grandparents even playing on the playground with their children [and] grandchildren. It’s a playground that everyone can enjoy.”
The playground is not the only project funded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Shades Beach Park. In 2000, DCNR awarded some of the funding for the construction of pavilion and boat launch facilities, better connecting the park’s resources with Lake Erie.
“It’s a popular place for everything from family reunions to graduation parties,” said Mark Corey, Harborcreek Township engineer. “It’s one of those few places along the Lake Erie shoreline that has convenient public access. It’s secluded by the topography and wooded surroundings. But it’s still not a far drive away from amenities.”
Cruz is happy with the impact the playground has had on the community.
“Residents have called the Township to say, ‘I haven’t been to Shades Beach Park since I was a child, there wasn’t really anything there, and now look at it—it’s a great place to take the family.’ A lot of family reunions are held at Shades Beach Park and they come back every year!”