A master plan for the long-debated Holmes-Foster Park upgrade was approved by State College Borough Council Monday as a means of meeting Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources requirements.
Public input on the plan began last year, when the developer, Stromberg/Garrigan and Associates, hosted an open house inviting members of the community to comment on what they would like to see in the park. Further workshops were hosted as a plan was formed that both focused on preserving the trees of the park while adding to the amenities the park provided.
A plan presented in February received less than enthusiastic remarks from the Holmes-Foster neighborhood residents.
Since that time, the developer and borough staff have been working with the residents to find a compromise. Plans on consolidating playground equipment and creating additional pathways were scrapped in favor of maintaining the natural aesthetic of the park.
Council appointed Councilwoman Cathy Dauler to meet with Public Works Director Mark Whitfield and Holmes-Foster Neighborhood Association President Ron Madrid to form a consensus on a plan, Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said during a Dec. 14 work session.
The hope, Fountaine said, was that council could adopt a plan by the end of 2015 and pass a resolution as required by DCNR, to receive reimbursement for consultant fees in the amount of $10,000.
According to Whitfield at the work session, the first and foremost thing residents were concerned about was the reforesting of the park.
“We’re rapidly losing a lot of mature trees,” he said. “A recent survey identified more trees that need to come down, so time is of the essence in coming up with a reforesting plan.”
Other improvements included a connecting path from Sparks Street to Westerly Parkway and a path going northeast that connects Fairmount to the Sparks/Westerly path, he said. Points of consensus included leaving the playground equipment where it is and keeping the pavilion restrooms as-is.
Councilman Evan Myers, who noted that he lives in the Holmes-Foster neighborhood, said Monday that residents commented their concern about the pathway from Sparks into the park as something they opposed.
Fountaine said the path was discussed in the subcommittee, and it was his understanding, according to Madrid, that while some were in opposition to the path, a majority of residents supported it.
Fountaine also noted that anything would have to be approved before the project goes forward. Approval of the plan now provides framework for preparing capital budget and project plans.
The board unanimously approved the park master plan.
In other business, council declined an offer by the State College Area School District to take possession of the building located at 131 W. Nittany Ave. and have it relocated to a different parcel.
The building, formerly SCASD’s central office building, was the site of the Nittany Avenue School, built in 1925.
The district wanted to retain the land, Fountaine said during the Dec. 14 work session, and invited the borough to relocate the building if so desired.
“While moving the building intact is technically possible,” he said, “it’s not practical,” citing the 60-foot-wide building would not fit down the 50-foot right-of-ways without the removal of streetlights and trees.
The borough would also need a suitable property to relocate the building on to, he said. No parcels owned by the borough could incorporate the building.
Council unanimously denied the proposal.