July 15, 2008

Better Use of Waterways, Trails Tops Residents’ Wish Lists

By Mitch Fryer, The Leader-Times, Kittanning, Pa.

Jul. 15--KITTANNING -- Armstrong County residents are getting a look into the future of recreation in the county.

The preliminary draft of the county's first recreation plan, a guide that assists planners in setting goals, strategies and priorities for the recreational needs of county residents, is being shown throughout the county this month.

Local input shaped the Comprehensive Recreation, Parks, Open Space and Greenways Plan, and the public identified improved opportunities for the recreational use of rivers and waterways, trails and the Belmont Complex as their main concerns, officials said.

The plan counts a number of countywide recreation facilities including 41 local parks, one county recreational complex (Belmont), two federal areas, seven trails, five state gamelands, 20 schools, two rivers, three major lakes and dozens of private recreation opportunities.

It lists the Allegheny River, Mahoning Creek and Mahoning Creek Lake, Redbank Creek, Pine Creek, Cowanshannock Creek, Crooked Creek and Crooked Creek Lake, Kiskiminetas River, Roaring Run and Rattling Run as county waterways which support natural greenways.

"People said to capitalize on our rivers and lakes," said Armstrong County Commissioner Patty Kirkpatrick. "That's one of our greatest assets, and we should be promoting it more than we are."

The plan calls for continued trail development and connection to regional trail networks.

"They said to use the trail system more," Kirkpatrick said. "The Armstrong Trail is going to play a significant role in our recreational future."

The recreation plan is part of the county's adopted overall Comprehensive Plan. Pittsburgh recreational planning firm Pashek Associates developed it for the county. The study was paid for by two state grants totaling $120,000 -- $100,000 to Pashek and $20,000 for the county's administrative costs.

A series of regional public meetings was held last fall. In addition, recreational interest surveys were mailed to about 3,000 households.

A second series of public meetings is being conducted to announce the results of the public-led plan and show the draft of the plan. The board of commissioners will have to approve the final plan.

There are two public meetings yet to be held, Wednesday at the Parks fire hall and Thursday at the Sugarcreek fire hall, both starting at 6:30 p.m.

"All the public comment was positive on the Belmont," said Commissioner Rich Fink. "Everyone agreed that the county needs a centralized recreational area and that the kids need a recreational place and opportunities."

"People also want an ATV trail, and they see a need for a trail that respects property owners," Fink said.

The plan is meant to tie parks and recreation into other county planning efforts such as economic development, land use planning and transportation systems, officials said. It identifies areas and issues to help the county and local municipalities be more successful in receiving state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources funding for recreation projects, they said.

Kirkpatrick said the recreation plan tells the county where best to put its resources.

"That's good planning," Kirkpatrick said.

Mitch Fryer can be reached at [email protected] or 724-543-1303, ext. 242.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Leader-Times, Kittanning, Pa.

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