Kirby Park is a popular spot for many locals. Between running/biking trails, tennis courts, softball fields, events, and more, there is plenty to do year-round there.
The park is a large part of Wilkes-Barre’s evolving history. It has gone through many changes and faced many challenges but has remained a staple location for area residents.
Located on 52 acres of land, Kirby Park has seen a lot of changes over the years. For one, it’s nearly half the size it used to be–Fred Morgan Kirby donated 70+ acres of land to the city for the park. When the levee system was built to protect the area from flooding, it cut the riverfront park in half. The main part of the park–which simply refers to the part we see when we visit Kirby Park today–has remained open for concerts, festivals, fireworks, picnics, sports, and more.
Today there is even a food stand, Fred’s at Kirby Park, named after the man who donated the land to the city many years ago. Open noon to 7 pm daily, they are offering food like noodles and cabbage, grass-fed beef hamburgers, and snacks like ice cream from Hillside Farms and Kernel Moonie’s Popcorn. That makes Kirby Park one of the only parks in the area with its own snack stand.
The area separated from the maintained park by the levee has become overgrown and structures that used to be there are now deteriorating. This can be seen in the old zoo area.
Yes, a zoo.
The original, larger park used to feature a zoo, which was located in the outer parts of the park. This is, perhaps, the biggest change the park has seen since its opening.
This zoo first opened in 1932 and featured buffalo, deer, bears, monkeys, and more. The riverfront zoo also featured a reflecting pool, cottage, walking paths, and sandboxes. However, floods over the years led to the abandonment of the park.
The first flood that had a great effect on the city came in 1936. It was then decided that building a levee would be the best way to protect the city and the park from flooding again. That levee divided the maintained park from the natural park, which was where the zoo was located.
By 1946, the monkey house was all that remained of the zoo since it had been moved to the part of the park that was being maintained. Those monkeys were eventually sent to the Nay Aug Park Zoo, ending the Kirby Park Zoo once and for all.
Kayleigh is a content writer with a BA in technical writing/literature and an MA in creative writing. When she’s not at work writing, she’s at home writing, reading, or binge-watching television shows… for research, of course. A big do-it-yourselfer and crafter, Kayleigh loves testing out projects and gifting them to friends and family—all in preparation for when she owns her own home one day and decorates with her own personal creations. Her work has appeared on The Writing Cooperative and as an Honorable Mention in East Meets West American Writers Review.