Updates, repairs, conservation: 2 Centre County projects get boost from state funds

With the help of state funding, Ferguson and Rush townships will invest in Centre County’s environmental and recreational space through two projects aimed at benefiting the greater community as a whole.

State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, and state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, announced on Tuesday that $200,000 in state funding will be used for the betterment of recreational opportunities and the protection of the environment. The grants, which were awarded by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, will help rehabilitate the Rush Township Municipal Park and expand the ClearWater Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania’s Pasquinelli property in Ferguson Township.

“When it comes to the natural beauty of central Pennsylvania, our area is unrivaled,” Corman said in a statement. “These projects are crucial to protecting our natural resources and providing area residents with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. I’m pleased that this funding will help to give way to a greater appreciation of our surroundings.”

Approximately $66,328 in state funds were allocated to Rush Township. In a statement, Conklin said the funds will be used to update park equipment, install new picnic tables, bike racks and fencing and correct ADA-accessibility issues.

Rush Township Supervisor Samuel Estright said the township is excited to be able to update its park with the help of state funding, adding that the township is usually left on its own to update facilities and recreational space.

“This is pretty much the first grant we have ever received like this,” Estright said. “We are all really excited and please because it’s such a great thing.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at $78,033 and will include the construction of accessible parking spaces, walkways, a trail, the planting of two shade trees and the repair of basketball equipment and a play area. Estright said construction is set to begin in the spring.

“These parks are special places in our communities and providing this investment to restore and preserve them is a vital quality of life issue,” Conklin said in a statement. “These funds will ensure that our parks are safe, enjoyable places for all to enjoy, including individuals with disabilities.”

A portion of Slab Cabin Run in College Township. Jon Major ClearWater Conservancy

ClearWater Conservancy will use the $133,672 in funds to acquire a conservation easement, known as Windy Hill Farm, as part of the Slab Cabin Run initiative, a $2.75 million effort to protect source water and conserve 300 acres of farmland and streams.

“ClearWater’s perpetual conservation easement on the Pasquinelli property will ensure Windy Hill Farm is conserved forever,” ClearWater Conservancy Executive Director Deb Nardone said in a statement.

The property is owned by the Pasquinelli family, who will continue to live on and farm the land, Nardone said. She said the investment in conservation protects the community drinking water, improves the health of Slab Cabin Run and preserves the agricultural features of the region.

While Ferguson Township is not directly involved with the Slab Cabin Run work on the farm, township manager David Pribulka said the community is excited to hear about the additional funding secured by ClearWater Conservancy that will help better the surrounding area.

“ClearWater Conservancy continues to be a strong supporter of the preservation of natural resources in Ferguson Township and around the county,” Pribulka said.

Officials think this funding will help enhance the local area and lead the way in restoration and preservation efforts.

“It’s important that we preserve our outdoor areas so we all have the opportunities to step away from our hectic lives and enjoy our region’s beautiful natural resources,” Benninghoff said in a statement. “This grant is a strategic investment in preserving the local environment and providing a chance for families to enjoy being outside.”

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.