State College

College Township alters parks, guns ordinance

A small oversight about three years ago is leading to a change in a township ordinance regarding firearms and public parks.

In one month, Township Council will hold a public hearing and vote to change a piece of language regarding prohibited conduct in parks and recreation areas, according to discussions held Monday.

In June 2011, the council voted to change the ordinance regulating firearms in parks in order to comply with state law, permitting firearms to be carried in those public places.

The township received a letter on Dec. 30, 2014, from the Firearms Industry Consulting Group regarding a current township ordinance prohibiting hunting and trapping of animals in parks and public lands. The letter said language in the ordinance violated a bill signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in November amending portions of the commonwealth’s statutory firearms pre-emption.

According to the township’s prohibited conduct ordinance, “... it is unlawful for any person to carry onto or possess on any park or other public land designated by College Township as recreational a shotgun or rifle or pistol or firearm of any make or kind” outside of authorized wildlife control.

Similar ordinances have been shot down in municipalities across the state, according to the letter.

All Centre Region parks were subject to similar ordinances in 2011, township management analyst John Franek Jr. said. At that time, an amendment was made striking the language in question, but council missed a small part of the language regarding hunting and trapping.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Franek said. “It’s just that one sentence that needs to be removed, and we feel everything will be consistent to the satisfaction of the people who are requiring the change.”

College Township was actually made aware of the discrepancy by Ferguson Township before receiving the letter, he said.

A public hearing for adjusting the ordinance has been set for Feb. 5, after which the council will vote to change the language.

“Just to be clear, there’s no policy shift here,” Chairman Eric Bernier said. “That policy was established years ago. We’re just in essence doing some house-cleaning.”

In other business, during a reorganization meeting prior to the regular meeting Monday, the council voted to keep Bernier as council chairman. With the departure of Mary Shoemaker, the council voted Lynn Herman as the new vice chairman.

Monday’s meeting marked the first meeting for new Councilman Bill Sharp. He was chosen as Shoemaker’s replacement following her departure at the end of 2014. He will finish out Shoemaker’s remaining term through the end of 2015.

Sharp said he has served for three years on the Spring Creek Watershed Commission and was also appointed to the township’s parks and recreation committee last fall. He said he will be giving up the parks and recreation position, however, to another individual seeking the position.

He said he will be seeking re-election when his term expires at the end of the year.