In early June, a 100-foot extension of the boardwalk at Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick was completed, producing an ADA-compliant loop. Before the loop existed, visitors would reach the end of the boardwalk and would need to backtrack.
Raymond Bender, board chair and president at Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick, provided LebTown with background on the boardwalk extension.
Bender has a background in local and county government, with a career at the Lebanon County Redevelopment Authority spanning more than four decades. Bender spent the last decade of his career as executive director.
Taylor Casey, office manager and environmental educator at Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick, also spoke with LebTown about the boardwalk extension, which has “been a long time coming.”
The Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick board is the non-profit organization that manages the park. The Lebanon County Commissioners serve as the trustees who appoint the board members.
According to Bender, Charles “Chuck” Allwein, longtime Mt. Gretna resident and former board member at Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick, first envisioned the ADA-compliant boardwalk.
“He was concerned that while the park offered recreation opportunities to most visitors, activities for those with mobility issues were limited to the environmental center and, to a lesser degree, the interpretive trail,” Bender said. Allwein visited other parks and observed a similar lack of accessible options.
Sparked by Allwein’s vision for the park, Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick worked with Wilson Engineering to create a concept plan and project what it would likely cost.
The concept plan featured a raised boardwalk that would run from the park driveway “through the woods along a ridgeline,” according to Bender, and connect with the interpretive trail, which was “graded and paved for ADA access,” situated behind the park’s environmental center.
“Our interpretive trail is nice for those that can still go on the trails because it’s not super long,” Casey said. “And we have a pamphlet that actually goes along with it. So, there’s numbered spots all along the trails where you can stop, and it matches up with the pamphlet and will tell you about what tree is there or a sign that is there. And it’s just a good way to familiarize yourself with the common species that are in our Governor Dick forest.”
After the concept plan was created, both parties realized the project would be an involved and expensive one and would need to be completed in phases.
The first phase was estimated to cost $500,000 and ended up costing an additional $60,000. PA DCNR and Schock Foundation contributed $250,000 and $145,000, respectively, toward this phase of the project. Lebanon County Hotel Tax and Lebanon County Marcellus Gas Grant provided additional funding, and the park covered outstanding costs.
The first phase of the boardwalk, which featured the largest difference in elevation and two platforms to observe the forest and its inhabitants and visitors, was started in 2018 and completed in 2019.
The second and final phase of the boardwalk was started in 2022 and completed in June of this year. Lebanon County Commissioners contributed ARPA funds toward this phase of the project.
Bender said Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick is in the process of scheduling a grand opening and dedication for the boardwalk for the near future. In the meantime, the boardwalk is open to the public.
“It’s really lovely just because of the way that the light wood contrasts with the dark forest behind it,” Casey said. “So, you go out onto the boardwalk, and it goes into a section of the woods and kind of over somewhat of a steep, rocky area … And then, there’s a short kind of overlook that you can look over parts of the forest and one of the trails below, which is just really beautiful. And you can sit and listen to the birds. And you can look at the trees and plants and insects all around you.”
Visitors can access the boardwalk, with ADA-accessible spaces available in the center parking lot or driveway. Benches are located along the boardwalk.
“It’s a really wonderful way for people to get out into nature if they’re not really able to use most of our trails,” Casey said.
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