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The boardwalk at Governor Dick is set to be extended another 100 feet, linking the original span with the interpretive trail at Clarence Schock Memorial Park and forming a complete, ADA-compliant loop.
Lebanon County Commissioners approved the project last Thursday as part of allocating remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, distributed by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county funding will be used to extend the boardwalk another 100 feet or so, connecting it with the interpretive trail at Clarence Schock Memorial Park, a 0.4-mile loop featuring a variety of trees and plants as well as a reconstructed charcoal flat area such as the ones where wood was once slowly burned on the peak to make charcoal for the Cornwall Iron Furnace. (Governor Dick is named after an 18th-century black collier, or charcoal burner, who lived on the slope and labored at a flat like this as part of the iron empire established by Peter Grubb and later taken over by the Coleman family. )
The funding will also pay for modifications to the interpretative trail to ensure the grading remains within ADA requirements and stabilize the gravel.
Although the project had been planned originally as a single effort, it proved too expensive to do in one phase. The initial 315-foot span of the boardwalk was funded in part with a nearly $200,000 grant by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which covered about half of the costs. It opened for use in 2019 and has received a very positive response since then, park officials said.
“For as many recreations as the park offers, there’s very little we offer for persons with disabilities,” said Governor Dick board president Raymond Bender.
“The idea was to get something that would get persons with disabilities into the forest.”
The boardwalk in its current form features three different viewing areas, at different heights, with the tallest 16 feet off the forest floor. The boardwalk currently terminates at the third viewing area.
The boardwalk provides a whole different look at the biota of the park.
“It’s amazing the difference from one side to the other – how high you are on some of the platforms,” said Bender.
Bender noted as well that views vary dramatically throughout the year.
“When the leaves are off you see a lot further, but when the leaves are on you see a lot more about what’s living in the woods,” Bender said.
With the ARPA funds, the boardwalk will be extended in a manner consistent with the existing design. The new span connecting with the interpretive trail won’t be as high off the ground as the earlier section due to the topography of the area.
Construction of the extension will be planned and supervised by Wilson Consulting Group, who designed the first phase of the boardwalk. Wilson Consulting also serves as the engineering consultants for the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.
Although the design is basically ready to go, supply chain constraints make it difficult to estimate when the job will be completed, and in all likelihood it will take longer than it would have before the pandemic and the associated global logistics snafus. However, Bender expects the work to be completed within the next year and hopefully even this fall. ARPA funding is required to be spent by the end of 2024.
“I would hope we never get anywhere close to that,” said Bender, noting that late fall and winter are ideal times to work on projects like this due to park usage dropping off significantly after leaves have fallen.
Read More: Taking a fall foliage hike up to Governor Dick Observation Tower
Bender said that use of the entire park has been significantly higher since COVID, and while it’s dropped a bit since the peak, usage hasn’t dropped back to previous levels. The boardwalk already serves a number of different populations, ranging from school age children up to those who have moved into assisted living communities. Handicap spaces adjacent to the boardwalk entrance ramp make it an easy and delightful trek into the woods for those with disabilities and those without.
Find more information about visiting Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick on the park’s website.
Read More: The sad story of the six-level “Tower House” that once stood atop Mount Gretna’s Governor Dick
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