When Malcolm Sias of the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation stopped by the new James R. Peach Bowl at Twin Lakes Park at 8:30 Sunday morning, he found skateboarders already were there.
"They said, 'We came to beat the crowd,' " Mr. Sias said.
Since the dedication and opening last Thursday of the bowl by the Westmoreland County commissioners, it has been used by hundreds of skateboarders not only from the county but from all over southwestern Pennsylvania, Mr. Sias said.
Construction of the skate bowl, which began this summer and finished Sept. 19, completed the second phase of improvements to an area of the park along George's Station Road in Hempfield.
The first phase, which included construction in 2008 of a skateboard park, an entrance road, restrooms and a parking area, cost almost $1 million, Mr. Sias said.
The first phase also included the creation of a community garden that now contains 100 to 120 lots, Mr. Sias said. The plots, which are plowed and prepared by county workers in the spring, are rented by 50 to 60 families for $8 per summer.
The original skate park built at Twin Lakes includes stairs, curbs and rails similar to what a streetscape would contain, he said.
Construction of the Peach Bowl was part of the second phase, which cost $1.73 million and included an extension of the entrance road from the skate park to the main road, additional parking and the construction of a wheelchair-accessible playground that has space for 300 children at one time.
Mr. Sias said the second phase also included construction of the Ferrier Life Trail, which offers exercises designed for people older than age 50; the building of two large pavilions that each hold 200 people; and the construction of the Franklin Dog Park, which contains three areas where dogs can run free.
A place for winter sports, with three sledding and snowboarding areas, also was built as part of the second phase.
"We tried to design a park that is very action oriented," Mr. Sias said. "We wanted a park where whole families could come, and there would be something for each age group to do: parents could walk dogs in the new dog park at Twin Lakes while their children play in the new playground."
He said other areas of Twin Lakes Park, such as those around the upper and lower lakes, are more suited to passive activities such as walking, fishing, picnicking and nature studies.
The third phase, whoch Mr. Sias hopes to complete in 2013 and 2014, will include construction of an amphitheater, a dek hockey or ice skating rink, another restroom and more parking.
All three phases are being built on 22 acres of a 67-acre tract purchased by the county in 1988.
James Peach, former Hempfield Area High School business teacher and businessman, donated $264,000 for construction of the earlier skate park and the new skate bowl. County officials named the Peach Plaza Skate and Action Park in memory of his late wife, Joyce.
Mr. Peach, who is retired, said he donated the money "for the kids ... so they will have a place to burn off energy and skateboard safely, without being chased off the streets by police."
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.