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Rec plan calls for greater county involvement

A draft of the county’s new recreation plan would see the county take on an expanded role in promoting and developing recreation assets in the county.

“It’s been mentioned throughout this document that Warren County does not own or manage any parks, however, there are many parks, trails, and facilities that are located within the county’s physical jurisdiction,” the report states.

“As leisure activities can bring joy to residents and tourism dollars into the communities, and as the Covid-19 pandemic found many more people spending time outdoors, it is important to find avenues which allow the county to have an increased capacity to oversee parks and recreation in their communities.”

The plan’s first goal is to develop a role where the county is the “central clearinghouse” for parks and recreation in the county and suggests breaking the county into regions to be able to better highlight what is available in each portion of the county.

“It’s based primarily on marketing and promotion purposes for the residents in those regions to make them aware of the resources they have near them,” County Planner Dan Glotz said.

The plan also calls for the formation of a county parks and recreation board as well as a parks and recreation department with a program director.

“The county had a recreation director up until about 10 years ago,” Glotz said. “If the position is re-established, it would most likely be under a Recreation Department budget in the county budget.”

That position would be “responsible for overseeing the recreational programs put out by public and private parks, sports facilities, community centers or other institutions,” the plan states. “Often they work on publicity and finances for the programs and manage other individuals.”

Other identified aspects of the proposed county involvement would be the development of a marketing plan — the consultants say the planning process revealed that not everyone is aware of all the recreation offerings in the county — as well as technical assistance and education to municipalities and the public.

Other identified goals include a “interconnected” network of parks and trails — both land and water — and the promotion of programs “that serve regional needs.”

That includes the Bike-Hike Trail as the plan notes that the county “has secured an additional one-half mile of land to extend the trail further north.”

“The right-of-way agreements to get us from the current north end point to the upper end of the former Warren Mall are in place,” Glotz said. “We are waiting on a grant application window to open up through PennDOT to request the construction funds.”

Some of the specific proposals put forth by the consultant include a playground at Kinzua Beach as well as recreation development proposed for the former landfill and Birdsall Edey camp site.

“(T)he funding agencies are now requiring that proposed projects be identified in a local or county plan,” Glotz said. “The county doesn’t have to own the facility, but if potential improvements are noted in the County plan, then the project is a candidate for grant funds. The applicant does not have to be the County. It can be the local municipality or other eligible applicant.

“Is it an implementable plan? I would say yes.”

One element of the plan that the county hasn’t had before is an inventory of all the recreation amenities in the county.

“The inventory reflects the current conditions of each facility and serves as a guide for improvements and grant applications going forward,” Glotz said. “I am very pleased with the consultant’s recommendation to complete an analysis of each facility and provide the matrix.”

The plan can be viewed at the county website — warrencopa.com — with a public comment period to run from March 29 to May 13. Comments can be sent via email to broselli@mackinengineering.com.

A public hearing will be held prior to final consideration of the plan by the county commissioners.

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