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Grant will help Lower Swatara Township evaluate best use of parks

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/4/19

Lower Swatara Township has received a $15,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to prepare a township-wide park, recreation and open space comprehensive …

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Grant will help Lower Swatara Township evaluate best use of parks

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Lower Swatara Township has received a $15,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to prepare a township-wide park, recreation and open space comprehensive plan that would assess the parks and make suggestions on how to enhance them.

The township is required to provide a $15,000 match for the grant, which Township Manager Betsy McBride said might come out of the township’s general fund budget.

Mike Schenmann with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources  said the contract began in January.

According to the grant application provided to the Press & Journal by the township, Lower Swatara wants a comprehensive recreation plan that would “lure people from indoor distractions to relevant and rewarding recreational opportunities right outside their doors.”

There are eight parks in the township, and in 2017, the commissioners voted to buy a 32-acre piece of land called the Shireman tract on the corner of Longview Drive and Ebenezer Road.

In total, the township has about 69 acres of parkland.

According to the application to DCNR, the parks are mainly focused on youth sports and playgrounds, which is only geared to one group in the township with 30 percent of residents being older than age 55.

A comprehensive recreation plan would inventory assets in the parks, while looking for ways to accommodate open space or passive recreation that might appeal to an older demographic.

The grant funds would not develop the Shireman tract, but the comprehensive plan would then shape a master site development plan for it.

Between the Shireman tract and an 11-acre parcel on Fulling Mill Road, township staff wrote in the application that these tracts could be an opportunity to accommodate both active and passive recreation activity.

According to the grant application, the township’s 2017 comprehensive plan has several recommendations to the township’s park and recreation system.

One of the recommendations is to work with Middletown to develop a trail along the Swatara Creek, including adding water access.

Some of the other recommendations include surveying residents on their interest in recreation programs or developing a township policy with criteria to accept parkland donations and purchase offers.

The plan also recommended enhancing the parks with walking paths, meadows, trees for shade and additional parking at Memorial Park.

When Lower Swatara Township gathered information for the comprehensive plan and other studies, the application said its residents “have consistently voiced a desire for recreation amenities — enhancement of existing parks, new recreational opportunities and a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly way to and from recreational opportunities.”

Six of the eight parks are in housing developments, and township staff wrote that residents and elected officials want to know if it would be possible to connect the parks with dedicated walking and/or bike paths or trails.

Some township roads could be designated as bike and pedestrian friendly by restriping them, which would encourage using bikes as transportation.

According to township engineer Andrew Kenworthy, the next step will be to organize a steering committee that would help develop the comprehensive plan.