Local waterfront ‘a special place for all’
By BOB ROLLEY
LOCK HAVEN – It’s official: The combined waterfront of Lock Haven and Woodward Township is among the top four public spaces in all of Pennsylvania.
That honor was officially bestowed on Saturday at – where else – but the opening of the annual Lock Haven Area Jaycees Labor Day Regatta, now in its 48th year along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
Against a backdrop of hundreds of powerboats, hundreds more people and a pleasant though overcast morning, officials from the city, township, tourism bureau and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) gathered to honor the investments the city and township have made over the years that serve as a model to other communities.
The Greater Lock Haven waterfront was nominated and then chosen for the award. The APA state chapter has over 3,000 members who work to promote planning at all levels of the commonwealth.
Jerry Walls, a semi-retired professional planner, president of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and a member of APA, lauded “the work of Lock Haven and Woodward Township to create a wonderful riverfront that is well used for many events and groups … and is a strong tourism and economic generator bringing visitors from many states to enjoy our beautiful, natural environment and our local businesses.”
As Lock Haven marched toward building a concrete and earthen levee along its shores in the mid to late 1980s, Walls said political leaders and planners helped both communities envision and then invest in improved public access and recreational amenities that have made the waterfront here the envy of many communities.
“Your leadership and successful riverfront will inspire more of our Susquehanna River Towns to capitalize on this approach to economic development and active, healthy lifestyles,” said Walls, who also is president of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.
Walls also applauded Clinton County officials who are working to build a rail-trail from Casteana Township-Lock Haven to connect to the Pine Creek Rail-Trail and Susquehanna Greenway.
For some history, the Lock Haven Flood Protection Project was authorized by the federal Resources Development Act of 1986 to build roughly 6.5 miles of levee along the river and Bald Eagle Creek. Levee construction began in 1991 and was completed in 1994.
On the city side, as the APA pointed out in its narrative for the award, talk of a levee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer galvanized a local planning team consisting of “the mayor, a city planner and city engineer (to become) involved in the design process. They were successful in persuading the Corps to add five key design embellishments that would accommodate further uses of the river (to include): A Riverwalk running the length of the levee, multiple access ramps; a public swimming beach; a pavilion over top a concrete swimming enclosure with restrooms; a massive amphitheater facing the river with concrete seating, plus the boat launch in the township.
The levee, meanwhile, meant the purchase of right-of-way along the river in the city and, to a larger extent, in Woodward Township, where homes and at least one business were displaced.
Born from the dislocation of people, however, was the public boat launch with a restroom and ample parking along Route 664 in the township. Slightly upstream, township leaders subsequently built an 18-acre park named by school students as Riverview Park, with public pavilions, a half-mile walking and inline skating trail, a playground, small, sheltered picnic tables and large open green space.
The township conducts an annual “Riverfest” celebration at the boat launch over three days in July, plus uses fees from seasonal rental of lots along the river to fund maintenance and development of both the park and boat launch.
In recent years, the township upgraded electric and lighting at the boat launch, added a third pavilion and put solar lighting around the walkway at the park.
Next on the drawing board are tentative plans by PennDOT to build a earth and concrete walkway connecting Riverview Park to Veterans Memorial Bridge spanning the river and connecting the city and township.
Today, that concert series is flourishing, city officials said, and this year the township got more directly involved in support of the series.
Private donations sparked by Jim and Carol Hanna a few years ago led to the placement of eight informational panels on the Riverwalk detailing the city’s and area’s history as a river town.
Aside from the regatta, the combined riverfront venues are used by many organizations for picnics, family reunions, weddings, public fundraising events supporting worthy causes, kayak-canoe races, triathlons, scuba diving and more.
“Residents and visitors to the Greater Lock Haven area find the riverfront to be a special place for all to treasure,” Walls said.