Human Services hopes to create accessible recreation

The former Shenango Street Station, once home to the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and now owned by the Human Services Center, could soon be the site of a boat launch and handicapped-accessible fishing area on the Shenango River.

Although stay-at-home orders across Pennsylvania have prevented some from enjoying outside, the Human Services Center is planning for future outdoor fun.

The center has applied for a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant to create a boat launch and handicapped-accessible fishing pier on the Shenango River behind the former Shenango Street Station, which Human Services now owns.

"This location will provide people walking access or public transportation access and have an opportunity to enjoy some of those outdoor recreational activities," said Laura Glenn, director of program planning and development for Human Services. "The hope would be to increase foot traffic in the downtown area in a positive way and get people (a place) where they can gather and just feel included and part of something."

New Castle does not have an American with Disabilities Act-accessible fishing pier, according to Glenn. Moraine State Park offers one, and there also is a handicapped-access fishing area on Deer Creek in Pulaski Township, near the municipal building.

The site, which Human Services acquired in 2018, would also host bike racks, picnic benches and walking trails.

This project was one of several "high priority recommendations" in the Lawrence County Greenways plan adopted in 2017, but the project was not funded because the county did not own the site.

The grant requires a 50 percent funding match through forms of donation such as services or products like asphalt, gravel and concrete.

"We recognize that during (the) pandemic, people are very apprehensive about finances right now and we respect that," Glenn said. "But we also see this as an opportunity to provide an inclusive way for people in the community to enjoy outdoor activities and be, you know, more connected that way,"

The other high-priority projects in the Greenways plan were acquiring a 180-acre plot of land called Quaker Falls in Mahoning Township, which the county bought from PennPower in March 2018 for $15,000, as well as developing an ATV park.

Glenn couldn't estimate the amount of money it will cost to complete the project or give a specific opening date, but said Human Services plans to break ground during the next building season as it expects the grantees to be announced in December.

"We just really hope that we're able to put forth a strong application and bring something to the community," Glenn said.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge established the Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership Commission in 1998 in the hopes of creating a "greenway" network statewide by this year. As a part of Ridge's plan, every county in the state would adopt its own greenway plan.

The Lawrence County Greenways Plan was adopted in 2008. An updated plan was adopted in 2017.

Some of the completed projects from the county's plan include renovations to the Stavich Bicycle Trail and construction on the Neshannock Trail.

The Shenango Street Station previously housed the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The chamber vacated the property in November 2017 and moved to the former Packer Thomas office building on East Washington Street.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

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