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Heberlig-Palmer Park Recent History and Future Plans

Heberlig-Palmer Park Recent History and Future Plans

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In May of 2013 a post[1] on the Carlisle West Side Neighbors blog urged readers to consider the possibility of a food forest and other improvements in the Heberlig-Palmer Tot-Lot, initiating what would become a series of discussions regarding the future of the park.

A subsequent meeting [2] late in May focused on safety issues in the park, as well as possible changes including a walking path, a “natural playscape” in favor of a traditional playground, better seating, an edible landscape, and the establishment of a park association, among other things. The issues of poor lighting and the presence of homeless individuals were brought up as significant concerns for residents living near the park.

Soon a design was submitted [3] by Derck & Edson Associates, paid for by the Elm Street Grant. The plan was tentatively approved by the Carlisle Parks and Recreation department, with more conversation to follow. Soon a regular meeting time was established for those involved with the park project, with representatives from Project Share and the Parks and Recreation Board among others. Discussions moving forward [4] focused around getting funding in part through giving the project non-profit 501-c3 status. Moreover, $27,000 was granted to the park from the Elm Street Grant. Dickinson College students were brought into the conversation with an emphasis on sustainable community building, and discussions began with groups such as EarthNow and ALLARM about donating rain barrels and trees to the park.

In November of 2013 the Parks and Recreation plan approved the park project [5] presented by the Carlisle West Side Neighbors, and it moved on to the Borough Council, which approved the project in December.

A Carlisle West Side Neighbors blog post in December of 2013 highlighted that the project was necessary because “[t]he landscape of Northwest Carlisle [was] being transformed in part by the Carlisle Urban Redevelopment Plan and the demolition of the Carlisle Tire and Wheel and Masland Plants. [6] This acted as a catalyst for change in the area, and the community say the park “is an underused resource.” [7] The post cited the need for food security, which the project group suggested may be alleviated by planting an edible landscape in the park. Moreover, the group was focused on natural playscapes for under-served children in the area. Natural playscapes have become an international trend in the past six years. Research performed in Canada in 2014 found that more natural play areas can engage children more positively, and possibly even decrease depressive symptoms in children [8].  The push for more natural playscapes also comes with the growing body of research that suggests that the small risks involved in these types of play areas help with “problem solving and conflict management…resiliency and leadership…[and] physical strength.”[9] The International School Grounds Alliance was formed in 2012 in part to address this research and advocate for nature-inspired playgrounds. Recently there has been a heightened demand for these sorts of play areas.[9] At this time they announced that they would be using the Downtown Carlisle Association to gain 501c3 non-profit status, which would allow a tax-deductible donation.

The project physically began [10] in March of 2014, when the Carlisle West Side community came together to spruce up the park, clearing paths, raking, panting, and cleaning the park. By May of 2014 there was free food available growing the the park. There were cherry, serviceberry, and a pear trees planted, as well as “strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, cilantro, chives, dill, thyme and parsley [11].” The need for renovations to the park was highlighted by a rash of vandalism in the community in general, during which Heberlig-Palmer Park was the victim of $2,302,70 in damage [12].

A significant amount of the project’s funding came in October of 2014 [13], when the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources contributed a matching grant of $67,500 to the park project, making the funding total $157,000. [14] This allowed for the Carlisle Borough to hire Frederick, Seibert & Associates [15], Inc (FSA) in April of 2015 to design the construction plans and act as contractors. In June of that summer FSA finalized a plan [16] to be approved by the Borough Council. The design features many elements of a natural playscape, as desired by the West Side Neighbors.

The park received that approval, and the approval of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in early January of 2016, and bids for construction were sent out mid-way through that month. [17]



[1] Westsideneighborhood, “Growing a Food Forest in Heberlig Palmer Tot-Lot,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog),  May 17, 2013,


[2] Westsideneighborhood, “Heberlig-Palmer Tot Lot Meeting Recap,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), June 3, 2013,


[3] Westsideneighborhood, “Heberlif Palmer Tot Lot Draft Design and Renovation Meeting,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), August 2, 2013,


[4] Westsideneighborhood, “Lots of Park Updates! & Next Steps…,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), September 6, 2013,

[5] Westsideneighborhood, “Heberlig Palmer Park Upgrade (halfway) Approved,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), November 14, 2013,


[6] Westsideneighbors, “Urban Redevelopment Plan Presentation Recap,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), May 20, 2013,


[7] Westsideneighbors, “Heberlig Palmer Park Project and Fundraising,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), December 11, 2013,


[8] Wells, Nick. “Adding natural elements to playgrounds can help depression in kids: study,” CTV News Health. April 13, 2016,


[9] Boesveld, Sarah. “Return of risk: The growing movement to let kids play like kids,” The National Post. May 4, 2012,


[10] Westsideneighbors, “Spring Spruce Up Success!,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), March 31, 2014,


[11] Westsidenieghbors, “Fresh Free Food Growing in Heberlig Palmer Park,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), May 17, 2014,


[12] Walmer, Daniel. “Vandalism at Heberlig-Palmer Park Continues Recent Trend,” The Sentinel. May 14, 2014,


[13] Westsideneighbors, “Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Awards Heberlig Palmer Park $78,500 Matching Grant,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), October 20, 2014,


[14] Fitzgerald, Toni. “Parks & Rec: Money, space key challenges for Midstate parks,” The Sentinel. February 13, 2016,


[15] Westsideneighbors, “Frederick, Seibert & Associates, Inc. hired to design Heberlig Palmer Park Construction Plans,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), April 10, 2013,


[16] Westsideneighbors, “Heberlig Palmer Park Renovation Design,” Carlisle West Side Neighbors (blog), June 17, 2015,


[17] Miles, Tyler. “2016 To Be a Big Year for HP Park,” The Sentinel. January 19, 2016,