Photo titled Ramm Road Vista (2) by Nicholas A. Tonelli
Tucked in among farm fields and wooded areas in the Nippenose Valley in rural Lycoming County is a former red brick elementary school that is a great model of how to provide opportunities for seniors and young people to interact and stay healthy, and pull off a public-private partnership.
Picture the seniors living in the rehabilitated school having their meals in the dining area immediately adjacent and open to the former gym with basketball court -- where community members are walking laps, or kids from the recreational basketball team are practicing.
In the coming year, with the help of a DCNR grant, residents getting some fresh air also will be able to watch visiting young family members, or families from the community, play on the upgraded playground equipment and park created from the old school playground.
Nippenose Valley Park
On a recent snowy day, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined state Sen. Gene Yaw and Limestone Township officials in celebration of an investment to support rehabilitation and further development of Nippenose Valley Park.
“This grant represents the Wolf Administration’s continuing support of DCNR’s commitment to local parks and playgrounds offering outdoor exercise and recreation to all ages,” Dunn said. “Not only is this project unique in its location -- adjoining a former school converted to an assisted living facility -- but it offers numerous opportunities for multi-generational recreation, while showing what happens when state, county, and township governments work together.”
The funding will support development of play equipment with:
- Required safety surfacing
- ADA access
- Project signage
- Other related site improvements
The playground is on the property of Nippenose Valley Village, a retirement community outside Williamsport. DCNR awarded a $50,000 Keystone Fund grant for the improvements, which will be matched by the private owners of the facility and Limestone Township.
“Well-maintained, accessible parks add value to our communities,” Sen. Yaw told the gathering. “DCNR's decision to fund the Nippenose Valley Park project through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program will allow the township to restore this space, while improving recreation and providing enhanced outdoor opportunities for area visitors. “I commend the state and Limestone Township officials on this exciting partnership.”
A Public-Private Partnership
The former Nippenose Valley Elementary School closed in 2013. The building and grounds were purchased and refurbished as a personal care home, Nippenose Valley Village.
The playground area was leased by the private owners to Limestone Township, which applied for the grant and provided some of the required match. Future plans could include development of trails and walking paths around the building and grounds.
“We are excited to join in this public and private partnership with DCNR, Limestone Township and Lycoming County,” said Limestone Township Supervisor Chris Lorson. “Projects like this provide recreation opportunities and employment opportunities. We are honored to have the support of Secretary Dunn, Governor Wolf, and Sen. Yaw for this very important project.”
Facilities at the building are offered for use by the community, including for clubs, athletics, and scout groups.
“The renovations will help bring more residents out into the park and will bring the community together. That’s the main goal of the project,” said Britt Bassett of Bassett Engineering at a community meeting before the grant was submitted.
Community Conservation Partnership Grants
The Nippenose Valley Park grant is among grants for 266 projects in the DCNR 2017 grant round. A total investment of $44 million is intended to create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.
“Grants such as this help achieve something that’s very important -- they supply much-needed recreational opportunities to area residents and outside visitors, as well,” Dunn said.
Grants are administered by DCNR through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2). Funding comes from the Keystone Fund, which is generated from a portion of the realty transfer tax; the Environmental Stewardship Fund; and the ATV/Snowmobile Fund, generated through fees for licenses; and federal monies.
The Keystone Fund is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and has provided thousands of grants for recreation and conservation projects in counties throughout Pennsylvania.
Public Recreation Facilities in Rural Areas
In the face of pressing public health concerns relating to obesity, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) notes that adequate places to engage in physical activity are important to all communities -- urban, suburban, and rural.
A NRPA report (PDF) found:
- Higher park acreage within a community is associated with increased participation in physical activity.
- Within parks, there are certain types of facilities that encourage higher levels of physical activity than others, such as trails and playgrounds.
“Recreation assets are important everywhere in Pennsylvania,” Dunn said at the event at Nippenose Valley. She noted the multi-dimensional aspect of the project, bringing seniors and youths together at a recreational site, offering exercise and wellness for all ages.
Dunn said that playgrounds are important for the health and well-being of communities, even in rural areas with lots of open space, such as Limestone Township.
Eligible applicants for C2P2 funding include:
- Municipal agencies
- Nonprofit organizations
- State Heritage Areas
- Prequalified land trusts
- For-profit enterprises (for some grant types)
The 2018 grant round is open through April 11. DCNR has Bureau of Recreation and Conservation advisors (PDF) who can assist with information in six regions of the state.