Armstrong County commissioners explore park transfer offer to Gilpin and Leechburg officials
Feb. 19—The Gilpin/Leechburg Park in Gilpin might soon be under new ownership.
On Jan. 26, the Armstrong County commissioners sent letters to Gilpin and Leechburg officials to gauge interest on the municipalities taking ownership of the park property.
The Gilpin supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the park's transfer.
But that doesn't make it a done deal.
"Armstrong County is exploring the possibility of donating the county-owned park. Preliminary conversations are being conducted. The county will be talking with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resouces to see what obstacles will need to be cleared if the decision to donate is made," said Darin Alviano, Armstrong County's executive director of planning and development.
Charles Stull, chairman of the Gilpin supervisors, said that once complete — pending a legal review and an official vote by the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners — the county will be removed from any involvement with the park grounds.
The park is operated by the Joint Recreation Authority and includes representatives from the county and both municipalities.
Gilpin officials were quick to respond to the letter, but Leechburg officials have yet to contact the county, Alviano said.
"The park will now be entirely under local control, giving the residents a stronger say in the operations of the park," Stull said. "Basically, the county did not have much involvement. They simply owned the land, but that requires them to be involved in most of the grants."
Leechburg Councilman D.J. Zelczak confirmed Thursday that the borough received a transfer information letter from the county commissioners and said the topic is on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
The county commissioners said if Leechburg officials express an interest in participating, both municipalities would have to work out the details of the transfer.
"It's great there's a reason to move forward with this," county Commissioner Jason Renshaw said. "It's in the preliminary stages, but we're working toward the goal."
A timeline on when the transfer would be complete was not provided and will be determined by the county commissioners.
"I think it's very important to note that, for the time being, operations will remain the same," Stull said. "There's no potential for any tax increase by this acquisition — very little monetary obligations."
Renshaw said he was pleased to see an enthusiastic response from Gilpin officials.
"We're excited to do this," Renshaw said.
The park, which is more than 45 years old, encompasses just under 24 acres. It includes three baseball fields, a playground, five covered pavilions, grill areas, restroom facilities, walking trails, tennis and basketball courts, and woodlands.
The park land was once owned by the Querio family, who donated the land to Armstrong County during the 1960s, with the stipulation that the acreage be used as a public park.
The Leechburg Area Pool isn't included in the transfer.
"They're a completely separate entity from the park and recreation authority," Stull said.
Township Supervisor Linda Alworth praised the countless volunteers who have worked to make the park a place to be proud of.
"Parks bring in people from out of the area which will bring in revenue and new families wanting to live in Gilpin Township," Alworth said.
Alworth described the transfer as progressive.
"Let's be proactive for the future," she said. "This will be a plus to gain additional grant monies. Grant funds must be used for rehabilitation and/or new development of basic outdoor recreation and park facilities that provide a high level of recreational value, such as playgrounds and pavilions with ADA accessibility."
Gilpin officials said the goal is to continue improving the park.
"The Joint Recreation Authority is in the process of resurfacing the tennis and basketball courts and adding a pickleball court, but with it now becoming more local control, we hope to continue to seek grants for further improvement and development," Stull said.
Stull said the authority would be having a meeting with DCNR but that, preliminarily, state recreational grant money would not be affected if the park transfer goes through.
Renshaw said that's something to be determined.
"Having gotten some state grants before might change the ability to transfer (to) someone else or even get more funding," he said. "These are the things we are looking into."
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joyce by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .