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State College Eyes Grant for Action Sports Park

by on May 19, 2020 4:54 PM

State College Borough is looking to secure a state grant that would help fund a long-discussed action sports park.

Borough council on Monday night formally approved applying for a Park Rehabilitation and Development Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

If the project moves forward, it would be built within High Point Park off of West Whitehall Road and would include facilities for skateboards, roller blades, scooters and bicycles.

A preliminary engineering estimate for development of the park is $500,000. Of that, the borough expects to foot $200,000, with the remainder coming from other contributions, fundraising and a state grant.

Though the project is included in the borough's capital improvement plan and budget starting this year, several council members and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine noted that applying for the grant is not a commitment to going forward with the park and to date there has been no approval of expenditures.

Councilman Peter Marshall said he had no problem approving the grant application, but said initiatives like the action sports park could be on the chopping block if revenues fall significantly below estimates because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"That will mean either raising taxes or cutting unnecessary expenses. When I say unnecessary I mean expenses that aren’t critical," Marshall said. "I would think basically because our tax rates are so much higher than the rest of the region that we would probably want to delay or cut discretionary capital [projects] and things of that nature. I favor what we’re doing tonight, but I just want to point out that in the future we may have to make some very hard decisions and this is the kind of thing we would have to be looking at."

Councilman Evan Myers said applying for the grant now would give the borough flexibility to make a decision in the future.

Alan Sam, borough environmental coordinator, added that State College would have three years to use the grant but would not be obligated to accept it.

"If we apply now it keeps our options open and then we can decide at a later date," Sam said. "If financially the borough can’t proceed at that time, we can either hold off for the duration of the three years or refuse the grant."

Fountaine said grant approvals are not expected until the fall.

"Then decisions have to be made in terms of appropriation of funds in the future," he said.

Tussey Mountain has been home to a skate park for skateboards, bikes and scooters since 2001, but the concept of a more easily accessible action sports park in the area dates back to 2013 when it was first proposed to the Centre Region Council of Government Parks Capital Committee in 2013 by BMX legend and local resident Jamie Bestwick. Borough staff began looking into the project the following year and it has been a part of capital improvement plans ever since.

In 2017, Orchard Park was proposed as a potential location, but that was met with opposition by residents of the Greentree neighborhood. An ad hoc committee was then formed and proposed several locations, including the planned Whitehall Road Regional Park

Construction on the first phase of Whitehall Road Regional Park has yet to begin, and an action sports component would not have been included until the second phase. A subcommittee of the original ad hoc committee regrouped and ultimately identified High Point Park as the preferred location. Nearby residents did not oppose the proposal for High Point Park, which is owned by the borough and maintained by Centre Region Parks and Recreation.

Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said on Monday that although no commitment was being made to develop the park, she was glad to be looking toward the future for a project that is "dear to the heart of many" who are in support of it.

"I’m delighted that, despite the problem we are all suffering from right now, that the future is promising and that at some point our young men and women who want to will be able to develop all sorts of abilities that are mind-boggling to the rest of us here in this [virtual] room right now," she said.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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