A Washington resident has started a new company to bring visitors and programming to Washington Park.
Pam Kilgore, who’s lived in the city for 12 years, started the new WashPa Outdoors LLC, as a citizens advocacy group for the park.
“The park is over 270 acres,” she said. “That’s a large space of land and only part of it is ball parks. There are wooded trails and beautiful scenery.”
Kilgore, who works for Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, considers herself a naturalist – someone who studies the natural world, advocates for it and educates others about it. She said that as a Washington resident and raising her two children here, she wants to “build a strong community,” and that the park is a good place to do that.
“I think people are always looking for accessible opportunities to spend time with their families outside,” she said. “This is kind of a diamond in the rough. It’s a resource that a lot of folks haven’t really discovered. If they have an event to go to that is celebrating those spaces they’ll be more prone to visit the park.”
So far, Kilgore has brought yoga classes to the park, trail cleanup days, group trail runs, nature hikes and pond studies. She also hosts a “nature with preschoolers” event for parents or guardians to bring preschool-aged children to learn about the park with stories and crafts.
She wants to also organize art classes in the park, book clubs, some camp out nights with a bonfire and music, maybe even a “hootenanny.”
“I’m trying to find out what people are interested in doing in the park, but I’d love to have a monthly music thing for people to play music and bring food,” she said. “It would just be a couple hours on a weekend evening when people can hang out around a fire and listen to music.”
Kilgore hopes to work with Washington & Jefferson College students on creating an app to help folks identify birds in the park. She said she wants to get a few pairs of binoculars for bird watchers to be able to check out for the day. She also wants to plan for a family fun run, fall festivals with haunted night hikes – all things that showcase the natural areas of the park while bringing people together outdoors.
“I don’t think people use the trails very much,” she said. “It’s an underutilized, valuable resource and a real local gem. I would love to do a night hike in the winter, and I’ve had some interest in cross country skiing tours, if we get enough snow this year.”
As part of her park programming, there will also be a Haunted Village and Hayride from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, for which Kilgore partnered with Drew Ross Manko, manager of The Ross Farm in North Bethlehem Township, and with the Washington County Historical Society.
She partnered with both in the past, as the Historical Society owns about 21 acres in the park, according to Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Historical Society, who has no relation to Pam Kilgore despite the same surname.
Clay called it “the perfect partnership,” that he believes “will benefit the community.” He said Pam’s programming will bring people to their sites who possibly never visited them or wouldn’t have otherwise. Their Frontier History Center and fort, Clay said is used “a few times a year for major events,” like the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
“Why not make it more accessible to the community,” Clay said. “Pam needed space, and we had it. We want it to be a community area. I want it to be used every weekend if it can be.”
For more information about park programs, contact Pam Kilgore at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her WashPa Outdoors Facebook page.