Ferguson Township officials continue plans for second regional park

As officials have worked to meet the first-phase construction budget for one of the three new regional parks, plans for the second are in progress.

Between now and April, Centre Region officials and consultants hope to take the Whitehall Road Regional Park through the land development approval process in Ferguson Township. The 100-acre park sits across Whitehall Road from Blue Course Drive and will include rectangular sports fields, a baseball field, a playground, a pavilion and more, just after the first phase.

Later plans include additional fields and amenities.

Consultant Jim Pashek, of Pittsburgh-based Pashek Associates, said during a Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority meeting earlier this month that his team hopes to submit the plans to the township in December or January. After receiving approval, he will request bids for park construction.

After an initial meeting with township staff, Pashek said such a project typically requires a traffic study, but that he hopes a previous study from the area will suffice. He also noted the park is considered a conditional use.

In the rural agricultural zoning district where the park is located, public recreation areas are conditional, not permitted, uses. That will lead to a higher level of review for the park.

Other items Pashek said will be up for discussion during review are a requirement for tree pits every few parking spaces — “we do clusters and rain gardens” — and a buffer requirement from a neighboring property where cattle graze. Pashek said it would cost an additional $250,000.

“We are hoping staff will come back that we don’t have to do the buffer yard,” he said. “We’d rather not spend that right now.”

The first-phase budget for Whitehall Road is about $5.5 million, and the Parks and Recreation Authority approved three additional charges to the consulting services. Before that vote, the group approved revising the park master plan to include incorporating a new regional parks maintenance building.

While the COG municipalities have not given final approval to Whitehall Road as the location, staff and consultants have said it will save time and money to include the building in the current plans, ahead of township development approval.

Consultant Alan Popovich, of APArchitects, proposed completing a preliminary design of the building that would include estimated costs of all aspects of the project, including sewer and electric. A plan for the building has been in the works and some officials have balked at a preliminary estimate of $2 million.

“We’ve got somewhat of a tight schedule,” Popovich said. “The estimate gives us the ability to structure phasing.”

The authority approved Popovich’s plan at a cost not to exceed $15,000.

In addition, it approved $1,500 in potential costs for extra work on the Ferguson Township development review, should variance requests be needed, and $4,850 to revise the park master plan, both of which will be added to the park budget. To the maintenance building budget will be added $5,700 for additional consultant services to complete the preliminary estimates.