Grandparents want to fix park in Washington to honor slain children

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For Steve Maze, the perfect summer day would be taking his young grandchildren to the park, pushing them on the swings, and watching them play in the sunshine.

Those perfect days are no more for Mr. Maze, of Canton. His daughter, Ashley Guarino, and her children were killed nearly five years ago. Orlando Guarino, the children's father who was Ms. Guarino's estranged husband, is serving three life terms in prison for murdering his family in their Marianna home on July 9, 2008.

"The kids always loved the park," said Mr. Maze, remembering the days he would take granddaughter Dreux, 2, and his 11-month-old grandson Orlando Jr., to various playgrounds in the Washington area.

Now, Mr. Maze and his wife, Debbie Maze, are hoping to renovate a dilapidated park in Washington's Seventh Ward in memory of their family members. Recent vandalism at the park hasn't made their job any easier, the couple said.

City council members in Washington last week approved an agreement with the Mazes that would allow them to renovate the 7th Ward playground on Second Street and place a plaque in the park honoring their daughter and her children.

"I got the go-ahead to do what I want to do," said Mr. Maze, who has been collecting donations for the A.D.O. Memorial Playground for the past several years. The letters A.D.O. are for the first names of Ashley, Dreux and Orlando.

So far, the fund has raised $8,000 and the Mazes are hoping to raise a final $2,000 to purchase equipment and make repairs to the playground, which was the site of the 7th Ward School before it was demolished decades ago.

They plan to purchase a climbing wall, spring horses, a merry-go-round, a swing set and a slide. A pavilion and picnic area in the playground will be renovated with new picnic tables, donated by Home Depot in Washington.

Other local companies, including McKean Plumbing, Busy Beaver and A&S Landscaping are donating electrical work, hardware and mulch for the project, Mr. Maze said.

The Mazes would also like to install a fence around the playground, to keep scofflaws off the property at night.

The playground fell into disrepair in recent years due to a lack of city funding, Washington Mayor Brenda Davis said. The financially strained city has barely kept afloat and has had to prioritize funding, she said.

A new comprehensive park and recreation plan adopted by council last week outlined a number of recommended projects, including repairs to the playground, so the Mazes' offer couldn't have come at a better time, the mayor said.

"This is really going to help the city tremendously," she said.

The city owns three other playgrounds and a very large public park that still need improvements, she said.

"I can't tell you how many millions of dollars it's going to take us to implement this plan," she said.

Ms. Davis said a parks department foreman has been assigned to work with the Mazes on the project, which will be completed entirely by volunteers.

About 30 volunteers turned out Saturday to begin renovations, which will continue for the next several weeks. The new picnic tables were installed, grass was cut, and debris was hauled away.

But by Sunday, Mr. Maze said, vandals had printed obscenities on the new tables and carved into one. Mr. Maze bought wood stain and paint to cover the words and he sanded out the carving.

"I was just frustrated," said Mr. Maze, who said the plan to install a fence and locks would now be pushed forward.

The Mazes hopes to have the project done by early June.

Mr. Maze said his daughter would be proud of the work he has accomplished so far.

"I've been waiting four years for this," Mr. Maze said. "All I wanted was a park to honor their memory and give back to the community."

To donate or volunteer for the project, call 724-531-0286 or send checks to: Ashley A. Guarino Trust Fund, c/o First Commonwealth Bank, 10 Trinity Place, Washington, PA 15301.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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