Franklin County drafts recreation plan

March 23, 2001

Franklin County drafts recreation plan

By DON AINES / Staff Writer

Franklin County could get into the recreation business in a limited way, assisting municipalities and groups with planning and securing funding for projects, according to a draft version of a comprehensive Recreation, Park and Open Space plan.

In addition to helping townships and boroughs with recreation projects, the plan suggests two other areas where the county can act to improve recreational opportunities: A countywide plan for hiking and biking trails and helping to preserve open space and greenways for public use.

"It's local efforts that are filling the need," said John Trant, a planner for Pashek Associates, the consulting firm that is conducting the study. As examples, he cited three parks under development in Washington, Guilford and Antrim townships.

"We don't want the county to be dictating recreation on a local level," he said.

Since July 2000, Pashek Associates has been working with the Franklin County Planning Department and a study group representing recreational interests and the public to draft the plan. The study group met Thursday at the Planning Department offices.


One of the first steps is for the county to identify what recreational facilities already exist, including state forests, parks and gamelands; regional, municipal and community parks; sports facilities and clubs; campgrounds, golf courses, ski resorts, swimming pools, trails and other attractions.

"The recreation inventory is the crux of this plan," Trant said. The draft suggests the county create, maintain and update the inventory and provide for its distribution to the public through a Web site and other means. For example, the plan identifies 13 public and private golf courses, four lakes and half a dozen trails available to county residents.

The draft identifies a number of existing and potential trails, including the Appalachian Trail that runs near the county's eastern border and the lesser-known Tuscarora Trail that runs along the spine of that ridge - which forms the western boundary of the county.

The 252-mile Tuscarora Trail was created in the 1960s as a bypass of sections of the Appalachian Trail that were threatened by development in Northern Virginia. The Appalachian Trail received federal protection in 1968 and the Tuscarora Trail fell into disuse in the 1980s, according to information on the Keystone Trails Association Web site.

The trail reopened officially in 1995, thanks in great part to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's efforts to clear overgrown sections of the trail through Franklin County.

Jerry Zeigler, code enforcement officer for Washington Township, said the county can assist the township in connecting a series of trails it is developing. "The goal is to make it so people can park at Renfrew (Park) and hike or bike" to the Pine Hill Regional Recreation Area and the Appalachian Trail, he said.

"We're getting it a piece at a time," he said of the rights-of-way necessary to make the connections. "There are a lot more people interested in trails than there were 10 years ago."

The county also could look at providing assistance in establishing bike paths, rail-trails and other recreational routes, the report said. County Planner Phil Wolgemuth said bike paths, particularly along state roads, present problems in terms of both safety and securing funding and cooperation from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"Running Route 30 on a bike is probably never going to be a piece of cake," he said. At the same time, the county could support municipalities in creating bike paths running parallel to the county's main east-west highway.

Pashek Associates held two public meetings and focus group sessions last year and Trant said a work session will probably be held with the Board of County Commissioners in April. That will be followed by two more public meetings in May and another study group session before the draft is revised and sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for review.

Over the next two years, the plan envisions the establishment of a Franklin County Recreation, Open Space and Parks Advisory Board that would become the initial point for municipalities and recreation groups to submit their plans for assistance in funding and planning.

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