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Borough Council Debates Plans for State College Parks

by on July 20, 2015 9:24 PM

The State College Borough Council turned its eye toward the future of two area parks at its Monday night meeting.

Council heard plans for the future of the Holmes Foster Park and the Thompson Woods Nature Preserve and Walnut Springs Park.

State College Borough Arborist Alan Sam said borough staffers noticed an almost ten percent loss of trees in the Holmes Foster Park since the early 2000s, which kicked off a community-wide planning process to save the trees and improve the park.

After months of meeting with borough staff and residents of the Holmes Foster neighborhood, architectural consultant Sean Garrigan laid out a vision for the park’s future.

Garrigan’s plan calls for additional natural vegetation along the edges of the park, in addition to regularly planting new trees in order to maintain the existing canopy.

The plan also calls for new gravel and improved drainage in the parking lot, increased accessibility for people with disabilities, updates to pavilions and restrooms, additional seating and benches, and expanding the paved pathway through the park.

However, some Holmes Foster neighborhood residents are less than thrilled with the plan.

State College resident Robert Eckhardt said he feels the plan has slowly moved away form its original intent of maintaining and improving the trees and other vegetation. He was especially opposed to proposed expansions to the parking lot and paved path, which he feels “runs counter to the natural atmosphere of the park.”

Fellow resident Bill Hartman expressed similar concerns, saying that changing the park too much would “destroy the park and character of the neighborhood.” Hartman was especially worried about “telling people to walk here and sit here” by expanding seating and pathways.

Borough council members Evan Myers, Tom Daubert and Theresa Lafer all seemed to agree with the concerns raised by the residents, with Daubert saying he “can’t go for a plan that would totally change the park.”

Council will hear additional comments at a public hearing on August 17 before deciding how to move forward with the plan.

Penn State biology professor and State College resident Carolyn Mahan also briefed the board about the need for a “stewardship plan” for the Thompson Woods Nature Preserve and Walnut Springs Park, located just off East College Avenue.

Mahan said non-native species like Japanese honeysuckle and garlic mustard have “compromised the health of the forest” and negatively impacted wildlife in the two parks. She asked borough council to consider putting $2,250 toward hiring a forester to study the parks over the next six months to come up with a plan of action to save the natural vegetation in the parks.

“Because of its close location to Penn State and State High, this plan could be used as an educational opportunity to show students how to manage nonnative plants in an urban environment,” Mahan said.

Borough Council unanimously voted to fund the plan. College Township and the Clearwater Conservancy are also helping fund the plan.

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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