After nearly 25 years of daily use by local residents and exposure to the elements, the park is due for a much-needed facelift, according to township manager Cheri Grumbine.
“It’s been a long time since we completed any updates to the park,” Grumbine said. “Over that time, we’ve seen the deterioration of the playground equipment and we’ve seen different needs that we have notated in a file as a wish list.”
Township officials hope to have that wish list fulfilled by applying Wednesday for a 50 percent matching grant through the Community Parks and Recreation Grant program administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
If awarded, the grant would cover half of the estimated $600,000 needed to complete all of the renovations on that wish list. North Lebanon Twp. will pay a portion of its share of the project through developer fees paid to the township’s parks and recreation department.
“We require fees in lieu of [property taxes] from developers, so whenever they construct a new development, new residential lots, they have to pay so much per lot for parks and rec,” Grumbine said and added when asked to verify if there will not be a tax increase. “That’s correct. There will not be a tax increase for North Lebanon Twp. residents. That’s very important to us.”
Two of the major issues to be addressed are shoreline restoration for the 13-acre lake and compliance with a state request that local municipalities make upgrades to their parks, which has taken on an even more critical role during a global pandemic. State officials are encouraging state residents to get outdoors and get active by utilizing their local parks, Grumbine noted.
“It’s a good fit for both projects for us, which are high priorities, to be available through one grant,” Grumbine said. There will be shoreline restoration to the lake, which qualifies for pollution load reduction, so the [Lebanon County] Consortium is going to pay for that portion of the cost. A total of $100,000 of the grant from DCNR and $100,000 from the Consortium will cover the projected $200,000 cost for shoreline restoration.”
This project is important, according to Grumbine, because it will allow the township to meet its federal mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency on pollution load reduction. The shoreline project will help reduce pollutants that ultimately settle in the Chesapeake Bay by creating a 35-foot riparian buffer along a portion of the lake.
“It’s a combination of various materials that will be placed along the shoreline to keep it from eroding into the lake,” Grumbine said. “From rocks to grasses to plants to different things while still providing fishermen access (to the state-stocked trout in the lake).”
The other critical component, the request by the state to local municipalities to improve their parks, will address several issues at Lions Lake, including accessibility as well as safety concerns, according to assistant township manager Lori Books.
“One of the other things that was pointed out during our safety audit, and another reason why we want to do this, is that the existing playground that is there is combined in the same area, as far as the 2- to 5-year-olds and the 5- to 12-year-olds are concerned,” Books said. “So, by ripping all of this out and redoing that area, they [the children] will have their own defined areas with their own playground equipment.”
Grumbine added, “Back in the 90s, the thinking was you just build a playground and now they are seeing that there’s a need to separate the real young children from the older children for safety reasons.”
In addition to two new playgrounds with their own set of new equipment, poor drainage on the baseball/softball field will be addressed and the existing walking path will be extended to accommodate more users to enhance social distancing.
“We’re doing an upgrade to the field because of standing water problems, which will help the fields dry (more quickly) for them (the players), and we’ll be extending the walking path,” Books said. “We are also improving accessibility to ensure that access to the walking path is ADA compliant and that access to our restroom facilities and parking lots are also ADA compliant.”
In addition to a new backstop and outfield fence on the baseball/softball field, the project will include paving of the gravel lots, located off of Jay St. and Ashton Dr., an overlay to the main parking lot, located in the 2,000 block of Water St., and the removal of the island in the east end of the lake.
As part of the application process, the township received letters of support for the project from three county entities: commissioners, conservation district, and planning department; the Ebenezer Baseball and Softball Association, WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, and the township’s parks and recreation board.
“This partner support means a lot to us as we work together to provide places where people can safely get out to enjoy the fresh air,” said Grumbine.
“And I want to recognize our engineering firm, Steckbeck Engineering, for bringing the application together on behalf of the township,” added Books.
While the township will submit their application on Wednesday, a decision is not expected until the fall. The earliest work would begin, if the project is green-lighted, would be in the next 12 to 18 months, according to Grumbine.
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