Time to shed more light on plans for park
What's in a name? A rose by any other name may indeed smell just as sweet, but the change of name for a proposed 6,000-acre recreation site says a great deal.
Pat Mack, director of the county planning commission, said the new name, "Anthracite Outdoor Recreation Area," more accurately reflects the wide range of outdoor activities that are planned at the proposed site. The earlier name, "Northumberland County Off-Highway Vehicle Park" put the focus on off-road activities, and it is these activities that have sparked much of the criticism that has been generated so far. The intent is also to make the park attractive for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and hunting.
The name change is a good idea. Hopefully, it will encourage the public to consider the wide range of outdoor activities that the park can provide. Up to now, most people have been concentrating solely on the "off-road" aspect of the park and have failed to recognize the potential for including outdoor activities that appeal to an even wider segment of the local population, in addition to the tourists who are expected to frequent the park.
"Work in progress" is a phrase that has been used to describe the park planning. Officials have stressed, and continue to stress, that no final decisions have been made about the composition of the park, and public input will be play an important role in development of the final plan. (Perhaps that's already happened, the name change as a key example.) But the county needs to continue to fully update the public on that progress.
Potential park users who have opinions about the facility's final make-up, citizens who are concerned about potential park activities and their impact on the area and people who simply want more information should all be encouraged to attend the second of three public input sessions, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Shamokin Area Junior-Senior High School auditorium.
Critics have consistently charged that the county has been lax in explaining all aspects of the projects. This dearth of information is largely responsible for much of the confusion and controversy that has been generated over the project. To help with the education project, The News-Item has presented a list of 15 questions about the park to the county planning department. Responses to the questions will be published in the newspaper in advance of Tuesday's meeting.
This is the time - not later, when the park is operational - for all questions to be asked, all suggestions to be made and all concerns to be addressed.