Residents consider options

Walker Township residents, from the left, Tracy Gibson, Edna Querry and Chris Linn discussed options for preventing the township supervisors from going forward with a land swap to build a municipal maintenance shed on community park property.

Several Walker Township residents met Thursday at the Woodcock Valley Community Park to talk about options for keeping the township from building a municipal maintenance shed on park grounds.

For the past several months, the township has been searching for a place to build a municipal maintenance shed, for storing the municipal vehicles and salt for spreading on roads during winter. The proposed shed will also include a new municipal office. After much discussion, the township currently plans to perform a “land swap,” adding township land onto the north end of the park and taking land from the southern end to use for the municipal building.

The land swap had been awaiting approval from the state Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, but it was just recently approved, according to Dale Myers, part of the township municipal authority.

“The land swap was approved a couple days ago,” Myers said.

Edna Querry, one of the concerned residents, said she had just been in contact with DCNR and had not heard it had been officially approved. Chris Linn, another resident, said he had been in contact with DCNR last week, but had not heard of a timeline for approval, nor had he asked.

Querry also said she spoke with Steve Parks, who originally created the master plan for the park. She said he told her of a similar situation that had taken place in Altoona where the local government had tried to get land from a park and they had also had to receive approval from the attorney general’s office, so approval from DCNR may not be all that is required.

Tracy Gibson, another resident, said she is planning to send a letter to the attorney general’s office with a packet of information about the situation, hoping for assistance.

Linn said they’d also reached out to state Rep. Rich Irvin and are considering reaching out to other members of the legislature. He said, at the end of the day, if this plan goes through, people are going to see that part of the park land they used to have would now be used for a municipal maintenance shed.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent (the supervisors) from taking any of the park land,” Querry said. “They said they needed options and didn’t have options. We went out and got them options … but for whatever reason, every option has fallen (through) except for this, which does not even make sense. If you have kids, you do not want to put kids by a maintenance shed with chemicals.”

The township currently has two acres of land on the northern end of the park dedicated to municipal expansion. The acres border Ward Street, covering roughly two acres along the road and roughly an acre deep into the park. The land swap would give the township another three acres, but the supervisors haven’t specified where the land would be exactly.

Julie Johns, secretary for the township, stressed Thursday morning that official plans for the municipal maintenance shed have not been determined, and just how much and where land might be taken has not yet been determined. She said they would need to bring in an engineer to make such determinations, which they had been waiting on until DCNR approved the swap.

Linn, Querry and Gibson, along with other residents, tried to measure out how much land five acres would be. Querry said it is hard to understand how much land it is until it is seen mapped out. After some calculations, they decided five acres would be approximately the northern loop of the path, stretching from the unmowed portion by the Methodist Church to the gazebo, and stretching from Ward Street to the wooded section at the back of the park. They said it would not be exact but gives residents an idea of the amount of land needed.

“We want to take a picture and put a full-page advertisement in The Daily News and show people what they’ll be looking at (if the plan goes through),” Querry said.

Querry, Linn and Gibson said they will continue to work to protect their park. They said they’ll be in contact with Julie Johns and with DCNR before the township meeting Tuesday. If it comes to it, they said, they may consider legal options.

The township meeting will take place at the municipal building at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16.

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.

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