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West Deer residents cool to proposed park

| Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007

Supervisors and a consultant had a hard time selling a proposed park to residents Wednesday night.

Supervisors are considering developing a 67-acre, township-owned property off of East Union Road into a park that would be bordered by the municipal building, Deer Lakes High School and East Union Intermediate Center.

As proposed by HRG Engineering, the park would work with the land's hilly, wooded terrain by incorporating several walking and biking trails, outdoor classrooms and a grass amphitheater, gardens and other nature-oriented activities.

Picnic shelters, playgrounds, an activity building, the amphitheatre, several trail heads and two main parking lots would be located primarily around a C-shaped ridge in the center of the park.

The entrance would be just to the east of the current municipal building driveway.

Costs were not included in Wednesday's presentation, but estimates are expected to be discussed at supervisors' Sept. 19 meeting. Officials said they are hopeful state and county grants would cover much of the cost.

Consultant James Feath, a landscape architect with HRG, said only about 15 to 20 acres of the park would be developed.

"We're trying to work with the topography as best we can," he said.

Supervisors' Chairman Robert Tanilli said the park was intended to have a "state park feel."

He said the increasing population in West Deer -- one of few growing municipalities in the county -- warrants the expansion of infrastructure and services the township offers.

Township Manager Jason Dailey said most people come to West Deer for the rural atmosphere, and the park is intended to allow people to appreciate it.

"We did not want to turn this into a metro, city-living type park," Dailey said.

But many residents in attendance were quick to point out all the needs the proposed park doesn't satisfy. Several questioned whether the park was simply duplicating activities offered at other local parks, namely the county-owned Deer Lakes Park and the township-owned Bairdford Park.

Several said the township would be better off improving existing parks instead of creating new ones.

"I don't think you're really adding anything," said Chanin Van Thiel.

She said she believes supervisors are misinterpreting resident surveys that were circulated during the park planning process.

Van Thiel said she was hoping for a large, indoor recreation facility.

Others mentioned adding a large community pool.

Sixteen-year-old Corey Pavlik and a couple friends urged supervisors to consider adding a skateboarding area or a bicycle motocross (BMX) track.

"Everywhere we go, we get kicked out," Pavlik said.

Another teen said he didn't think his peers would be interested in the hiking trails or the playground geared toward young children and those in their early teens.

Feath said the landscape of the East Union Road property would all but prevent large development unless the community is willing to drastically change the topography -- and likely spend a lot of money to do so.

Which lead Roger Simonetti to question whether supervisors would be better off finding a different piece of property to convert into a park.

"I think you have a junk piece of property that you're trying to do something with," Simonetti said, noting there is little room for future expansion. "This is not the property to build on."

Tanilli acknowledged that the park wouldn't satisfy everyone and said it was likely the township would need to build other facilities in the future once the population is larger.

"We're not trying to create an all-things-for-all-people park," Tanilli said.

Tanilli said the advantage of the property is that it borders two schools and the township building, making it central to the community and opening the way for educational collaborations with Deer Lakes School District.

Tanilli did not indicate when supervisors would vote on the park proposal, but said he would like to see some development begin next spring.

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