Friday, December 14, 2012

Mini Grants Will Aid Area Parks

Pottstown's Memorial Park
Improvements to parks eight towns that comprise the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee can be funded under a new “mini-grant” program that provides as much as $25,000 for improvements and to promote recreation.

The funding for the min-grants — eight of them — comes from an overall grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

It will be administered by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation and the regional planning committee.

Both have been working together already to seek funding for a “circuit rider” parks director who could help promote, manage and schedule park activities throughout the region.

The announcement follows on the heels of a study of regional parks, undertaken for the foundation by School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture of The Pennsylvania State University.

The study looked at each park’s resources and ways in which they could be used more extensively.

Two years ago, Town Square Blogger Sue Repko, who writes the Positively Pottstown blog, subsequently wrote a series of articles profiling the parks highlighted in the study.
A map of parks in North Coventry Township

“The Foundation is pleased to leverage funds from outside of the community so more people can be physically active,” said Dave Kraybill, Executive Director of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.

Helping makes parks more attractive and more used fits in with the foundation’s goal of encouraging fitness and a health lifestyle among the residents of the tri-county area.

The foundation operates a web site — — dedicated to encouraging a healthy lifestyle. The web site includes a long list of area parks and the resources available there.

The grants are “a great opportunity for the municipalities of the Pottstown Metropolitan Region to work together to improve local open space parcels and recreation,” said PMRPC Chairman, Ed Reitz, of Douglass (Mont.) Township.

Funding for the grants comes from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Key 93), the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener 1) and federal funding sources, according to information provided by the Montgomery County Planning Commission, which provides consulting services to the regional planners.

“Our grant investments work to bolster our vision for the strength of our economy, the vibrancy of our communities, the health of our families and our quality of life in Pennsylvania,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said in a prepared statement.

“These grants allow us to partner with communities so that they can expand and improve the wonderful assets that make the places we call home vital and attractive,” he said.

DCNR is the primary source of state support for Pennsylvania recreation, parks and conservation initiatives. Grant funding from DCNR assists hundreds of communities and organizations across Pennsylvania to plan, acquire, and develop recreation and park facilities, create trails and conserve open space.

First established in 2005, the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee is comprised of two representatives from each of the region’s eight participating municipalities, including Pottstown Borough, Douglass, New Hanover, West Pottsgrove, North Pottsgrove and East Pottsgrove in Montgomery County, as well as North Coventry and East Coventry Townships in Chester County.

Members address multi-municipal issues and oversee implementation of the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Comprehensive Plan, currently one of the largest multi-municipal planning efforts taking place in Pennsylvania.

Ironically, this example of success in obtaining state funding for recreation by working together is counter to the trend elsewhere in the region; most specifically with the Northern Federation of Chester County Towns, which has lost three member towns in 2012 — East Nantmeal, East Vincent and South Coventry — largely over a regional recreation plan which urged exactly the kind of cooperation among towns that resulted in the grant for the regional planning committee towns.

The success in obtaining the grants supports contentions made by Charles Jacob, Supervisor of Warwick Township and chairman of the Northern Federation of Chester County Towns, that the towns pulling out of the cooperative rather than work out their differences are shooting themselves in the foot.

Both he and the Chester County master plan, Landscapes, note that funding sources, especially state funding, tends to favor cooperative efforts among municipalities, thus cutting the cost for individual municipalities which are looking to plan for their future needs.

The towns that pulled out cited an absence of by-laws and procedures for accounting for money that paid for the parks study.

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