Key Takeaways from 2016 UAT Parks, Recreation & Open Space Plan

Significant insight about the existing parks and recreation programs were relayed through phone-call interview with key persons. The roster of interviewees were Township Commissioners and residents of the community who were somehow involved in the parks and recreation system, whether it be through holding related positions or were actively passionate about the community’s parks and recreation system. One of the most helpful aspects of the interviewing process was the diverse positions and viewpoints that were received by key persons. Despite the range of opinions expressed through the interviews, there were still several issues that many felt should be addressed by the Comprehensive Plan.The following is an overview of the similarities and contrasts of the interviews.

Interview Response Summary
The Township’s park facilities focus on athletic activities for school-aged children. Many of the different community teams which use the athletic fields expect them to be state-of-the-art, but this creates a challenge because most athletic activities do not generate any revenue. This focus on athletic facilities creates an imbalance of active and passive recreational activities. Many feel that there needs to be more passive activities offered to residents, such as educational opportunities, trail walking, bird watching, etc. While some parks, like Simpson Park, provide opportunities for passive recreation, the amount of visitors is too high for the parks capacity. Issues that come about from visitors beyond the capacity of parks are parking issues and litter issues, both which impose upon the park. This demonstrates that it may be of interest to the Township that more park area should be dedicated to passive recreation to mitigate this issue.

Several interviewees recognize the value of being involved in the Joint Recreation Committee and the partnership with the Mechanicsburg Area Recreation Department (MARD), like the range of programs and equitable access to the Mechanicsburg Pool. While this partnership is valuable, many feel that involvement can be reconfigured and the current system does not function as smoothly as it has potential to. Several interviewees felt that the Township itself should consider providing some of their own programs in conjunction with those provided by MARD and that expanding partnerships with other community stakeholders, such as Messiah College, may be beneficial to the Township.

Many interviewees feel that though there are ample programming opportunities for residents, there are improvements that can be made to the recreation programming system. Programming tends to be centered around athletics, which does serve a large portion of the community, but this athletically-focused system does not meet the needs of all Township community members. Several interviewees feel that more programming should be offered to accommodate seniors and young children, as well as school-aged children not interested in athletics. There is significant interest in educational opportunities, especially for natural amenities such as Yellow Breeches Creek. The stream itself is within the migration path of the Baltimore Heron and the monarch butterfly, and is rich with a variety of beautiful trees and plants, such as Sycamore trees along McCormick Park. Shifting focus on natural preservation and education in certain parks, rather than on active recreation, can balance the recreational opportunities provided by the Township.

Since Upper Allen Township has a rich heritage, many interviewees expressed support in connecting the Township’s two most valuable assets – its history and natural amenities. The Yellow Breeches Historic District, which runs along McCormick Road, is in close proximity to McCormick road and presents the opportunity to connect these two community features. A suggestion as to bringing natural and historic features together is through wayfinding signs. This will increase awareness of the different parks and historic district, and in turn will stimulate the visitation of each.

Overall, the big take aways of the interviews were: The partnership with the Mechanicsburg Area Recreation Department is valuable but can be improved, there needs to be more park facilities and programs which focus on passive recreation to accommodate its citizens and mitigate pressure put on parks which experience high volumes, and there needs to be a higher focus on preserving the Township’s natural assets while connecting them to other community resources.