SRU Good News for Nov. 20, 2009
SRU graduate discovers first American park while researching
Scott Spinucci, documentary filmmaker, media producer and 1991 Slippery Rock University communication graduate, has discovered a national treasure - the first official American park - River Common, located along the Susquehanna Rive in Wilkes-Barre.
Spinucci, a native of Wilkes-Barre, said the River Common information had long been forgotten and had not been substantiated until his research.
Spinucci, of AppleCart Films and Integrated Media Services, conduced the research in preparation for a 30-minute, television documentary.
Wilkes-Barre Borough's Town Council "Act of Assembly," which was passed more than 200 years ago, established the River Common as America's oldest official park on record. Aug. 16, 1809, the council set the land aside "as a public common to remain as such forever," he said.
The documentary, titled "River Common: America's First Park," evolved from a short film commissioned by Luzerne County to document construction of new $25-million River Common. The construction project, begun in 2006, is nearing completion.
In 1769, Col. John Durkee laid out Wilkes-Barre - bringing public parks to the new town. He declared the Common and the diamond-shaped public square to be "public, undivided lands." That simple gesture of democracy - a place for all town folk to gather - played a significant role in the forming of parks throughout the United States of America, Spinucci said.
"Of all the firsts that Wilkes-Barre holds, having America's first park is amazing and ought to be honored properly. I knew the Common was vital to Wilkes-Barre's revitalization - a part of our wonderful legacy - albeit unknown to most - but I never realized its significance in terms of our national heritage, that is, until now," Spinucci said.
He said he expected the local community would build on its park heritage and its history, including appearance in the park by Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, as well as such legends as Will Rogers, Samuel Clemens [Mark Twain], Wild Bill Cody, George Catlin, Harry Houdini, a future King of France, the Duke of Orleans and others.
The River Common construction is the last component of a $300 million, 12-mile levee project in Wyoming Valley by the Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. The project includes: a 750-seat amphitheater, fishing pier, boat dock, walking trails, hundreds of plantings, scenic vistas, as well as, one-of-a-kind, innovative, aluminum flood-gates that retract like "pocket doors" - providing access to the park through the levee.
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