Written by Martin Mazur Martin Mazur
Please see the message below from Nick Kello, who is active with Nittany Track and Field youth training group. It regards planning for development of the Whitehall Regional Park, which is the strip of land between Whitehall Rd and Rt 45 south of Blue Course Drive. There is concern about the balance and timing of the development plans. Nick is seeking advocacy in the form of presence and input at an upcoming meeting of the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG). The meeting is Monday, August 27 at 7 PM in the Forum Room of the COG Building at 2643 Gateway Drive.
As you may know, the Whitehall Regional Park (WRP) plan is advancing through COG and Ferguson Township. The plan for the first 40 acres of the 100 acre plot is for an array of playing fields for soccer, football and softball, including some with artificial turf. There may be lights and concessions as well.
While the soccer organizations are thrilled, other groups in the community are not as the original community surveys - now over ten years old, prioritized the need for trails and more natural areas with fewer playing fields (like Tudek) especially given the sensitive location near the water authority's well fields.
A Ferguson Township friend, runner and former soccer player, Randy Hudson, is advocating for a more balanced approach and is actively engaging with the township, along with others, to reconcile the COG park plan with the desires of the community. To this end, Randy is endeavoring to raise the voices of "non-represented users," including NTF and the broader running community, along with others.
Though COG and CRPR are very far along with WRP phase 1 planning, there may be an opportunity to get distance running, track and field and cross-country in the dialogue and on the radar. Maybe if we are squeaky enough, at least the space for a track (grass or "cinder") around a soccer field can be built into phase 1. As NVRC appreciates well, the need for a community track has suddenly become more acute with the closing of PSU's track and increasing constraints around the SC high school track.
Importantly, there is no budget for WRP phase 2, and any development would likely be a decade or more away, which is unfortunate because WRP phase 2 is where the paths would fit in. In terms of alliances, cross-county and distance running (including recreational jogging) intersect more with walkers, hikers and birders than with the organized sports programs like soccer and football. Add in XC skiing and you have robust year-round use for maintained grass paths over natural rolling terrain. Pushing COG and CRPR on developing the natural areas and paths as phase 1, even if it means deferring development of some presently planned phased 1 features, would greatly benefit the running community and have a better cost/benefit outcome for the region based on the original survey results.
The immediate action point and request of this note regards a COG meeting scheduled for August 27th (Monday) at 7 p.m. where Randy intends to use the public comment period to make remarks on the WRP plan, and hopes others will, too. NTF will be there, and I am contacting you to get NVRC in the loop. Any representation on NVRC's part at the meeting by your directors and members would be greatly appreciated. As a note of interest, in a letter supporting the present WRP plan, a local soccer organization cited 800 members as benefiting from the facility. To the extent quoted numbers inform planning guidance - and COG seems to react to physical numbers in the room, making the large local running community's presence known to officials is critical.