State College

Centre Region officials in awe of half-finished Oak Hall park

“Lovely,” “a jewel” and “blown away” were words used Thursday to describe feelings of Centre Region officials and the anticipated look of the now half-complete Oak Hall Regional Parkland.

The region’s park consultant, Jim Pashek, gave a walking tour of the park’s construction progress, first showing on a color plan of the finished, phase-one product the path officials would take.

Construction started in late April on the park’s first phase, with a $3.78 million budget.

The 68-acre park sits mostly in College Township, with a small section in Harris. Features planned in the first phase include four softball fields, a perimeter walking trail, a restroom and concession building, a maintenance building, and grass/gravel parking areas.

Rock on the site, bordered by Linden Hall Road, Boalsburg Pike and the Mount Nittany Expressway, has added a challenge to the construction work.

“All the excavation was in rock,” Pashek said, as officials stepped over rocks of various sizes. “It was as if this was a quarry.”

No dynamite was used because of public water wells on the site, so crews had to dig out the rocks and find places to put them. Some rocks were placed at the park’s perimeter, some were buried in clay, and others were buried under the park’s practice field, which was expanded to accommodate those rocks.

Stormwater basins were forming at the park and bright-orange flags waved from wooden stakes to mark sidewalk edges.

Posts were raised at OH1, the first softball field, to hold a solar-powered scoreboard featuring wireless operation. Ten-foot poles stood behind home plate at OH3, and 20-foot mesh will rise above them to keep foul balls from hitting the restroom and concession building.

Standing between fields three and four, Pashek said it would be “cool” to place a blanket on the grass and watch softball games on both fields. He noted there’s a tabletop of bedrock at least a foot thick under OH4.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he said.

As officials walked past piles of gravel and top soil, kicking up dust into a warm breeze, they admired the views in the park, which Pashek said is about 50 percent complete.

Upcoming work will include placing top soil and seeding, and finishing the maintenance and restroom/concession buildings.

The park is scheduled for its grand opening in the spring of 2015. Residents may have a chance to use the trail and other facilities before that time. Centre Region Parks and Recreation Director Ron Woodhead said officials want to give the grass two growing seasons before allowing people in.

“It’s not sprinkled, so we’re sort of at the mercy of the clouds,” he said. “I envision a soft opening in the fall of 2014, when people can come in and walk the trail.”

Leading the tour back to where future parking lots will stand, Pashek described a vision of a picnic pavilion that, hopefully, will house a stone fireplace in the future, a sledding hill, dog park and seasonal ice skating rink.

“It’ll be really lovely,” he said.

Dan Klees, a former College Township Council member who also chaired the COG Parks Capital Committee, said he was “blown away” by the park’s progress.

“I’m a visual person,” he said. “I’m struggling to get it all in my head. I’m just thrilled. I think it’s going to be a great asset.”

Eric Bernier, a current College Township Council member, said the park will be a “jewel.”

“It’s going to be a destination in central Pennsylvania,” he said.