The fickle weather patterns at this time of the year can promote a sense of cabin fever one day and spring fever the next. Members of the Blairsville community have a hidden gem right in the middle of town that can offer a solution to these feelings and a place to get out and enjoy the fresh air.
Four new outdoor fitness stations, installed at the Blairsville Recreational Center last year, are open to use by the community. The par course includes a stretch station, pull-up station, pushup station and a sit-up station along the track around the community center. Signage provides instructions on various activities that can be performed at each station.
The community project was initiated by Mayor Harold “Frank” Harsh. Harsh said he used a similar par course while living in North Carolina and thought it would fit in well at the track.
“I figured since we had a track and a nice playground area, that it would be nice to have something for the older people so as they go around the track they can do some pull-up, pushups, and things like that, so with the help of my son, Brock, and my friend Mike Uncapher we put up these four stations together. Hopefully people will use them and become aware that they are out there,” Harsh said.
Harsh donated his salary as mayor to the recreation department to fund the cost of the equipment.
Harsh has completed two years of his four-year term as mayor of Blairsville. As mayor, Harsh’s goals are to initiate more projects that will benefit the community.
Frank Harsh is a Blairsville native and has lived here most of his life, except for nine years when he lived in North Carolina. After attending college at Wake Forest, he returned home to Pennsylvania.
“I came back home after college because I wanted to make a difference,” Harsh said. “I coached football at the junior and high school for 35 years. I still coach, now I coach girls’ softball. That’s also why I wanted to become mayor.”
Harsh has been involved in the Blairsville Recreational Center since 1984 and continues to have the interest of the community at the forefront of his ideas for the center. It also helps that his son, Brock, is director of parks and recreation at the center and his mayor’s desk is located in the same office space.
Brock Harsh said the par course is used only occasionally now, but he hopes the upcoming warm weather days will entice people to get out and try the equipment as they walk around the ¼ mile asphalt track at the recreational center.
“I hope we can get more people walking here. We have a nice track. I see people walking the football field. They can be walking here,” Brock Harsh said.
“It surrounds our beautiful playground, so parents can bring the kids here to play while they walk the track with a good visual of the children at all times,” Frank Harsh said.
There is a pavilion in the park and a recent grant was used to install a soft rubberized surface at the playground.
“It is replacing the hard ground and old railroad rocks. My first order of business as recreation director was to make it safe for the kids,” said Brock Harsh. “If they fell of the equipment, we did not want them to impale themselves on those rocks. It is better now to have this nice substance underneath the equipment.”
Frank Harsh hopes to see younger community members in the park this year.
“When I was growing up here, we had tons of things to do here. We had roller skating, a movie theater, a pool, a pool hall, clothing shops, but that is all gone now,” said Frank Harsh. “But at the rec center, we now have things for the kids to do. There is a skate park, a basketball court at the park and a tennis court at the football field, all available to the surrounding communities at no cost.”
If it works out, Frank Harsh said he would like to install additional stations around the track. Harsh is now focused on a water-themed option for the children.
“I’ve always wanted to do things for the community. So when I became mayor, the first thing I wanted to do was to build a pool, but it was too expensive. So now I decided to try to build a splash park in the community,” said Frank Harsh.
Frank Harsh is not the only dreamer in the family. Brock also visions a splash pad at the center.
“We have a lot of recreation now, but we don’t have a lot of kids using the facilities,” Brock Harsh said. “We are looking into adding a splash pad instead of a pool. There is less maintenance, less overhead financially. On hot days they would have an area to come and cool off and enjoy. With the pavilion and the playground, families could spend the entire day here.”
Brock Harsh said they are in the initial stages of pursuing funding through grants and contributions from community members.
“If someone out there wants to fund it, we are here and ready to go,” said Frank Harsh.
Brock Harsh said it is sometimes a double edge sword to have your dad breathing down your neck, especially if he is the mayor.
“He pushes me to do things and he has a lot of great ideas. And, he does have the community in mind in all of them,” said Brock Harsh. “To be able to offer different kinds of exercise options for people is nice. It breaks up the everyday process of coming in here and walking on the tread mill or lifting weights. You can be outside and enjoy the day so hopefully we get more people out here to use this equipment.
“Whatever we can do to help people in the community, that is why we are here,” said Brock and Frank Harsh.