GARA approves Story Walk; considers supporting ACHS bicycle trail

The Gettysburg Recreational Authority (GARA) Board of Directors was presented with two proposals requesting GARA’s support.

Pedestrian Trail:  The Adams County Historical Society (ACHS), together with Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. (HABPI) is planning a new pedestrian trail from the end of the sidewalk on Carlisle Street up to the facilities of the Historical Society.

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Dennis Hickethier from HABPI briefed the board on the current plans and requested GARA’s support.  Hickethier said ACHS is currently undergoing a feasibility study exploring four possible routes, as well as associated pedestrian crossings and cost estimates for different segments. The ultimate goal for this additional trail is safety for pedestrians walking up to the Historical Society facilities, particularly seniors and children. Currently, once the pedestrians reach the end of the existing sidewalk on Carlisle Street, they then have to walk alongside of the road that has a 40-mph speed zone. 

One possibility is starting from the sidewalk on the West side on Carlisle Street up to the pedestrian crossing by Transitions Healthcare nursing facility and running the trail on the far side of the trees away from the road up to the Historical Society building. 

Since the various routes of the trail may affect other properties, the project will require cooperation and approvals from the National Military Park, Transitions Healthcare nursing facility, and Gettysburg College.

ACHS plans to apply for a grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) but, as a non-profit organization, will need underwriting from a municipal authority to support the grant, as the grant applicant must have ownership of the property or an easement for the trail. 

“This would be a perfect opportunity for GARA to expand their reach, as their mission includes programs and services to help sustain better health and wellness”, said Hickethier.  This new walking trail would be a benefit to the community but the project will require some organization for GARA to obtain the easement and function as grant applicant.  

The board discussed various aspects associated with the proposal, including best location, alternative routes, maintenance plans and responsibilities, liability insurance, and other considerations.  In order to meet the grant application deadline, ACHS requested a decision within a month to six weeks.  The board plans to make its decision by the next board meeting in February.

Library Story Walk:  Brad Ensor from the Gettysburg Library said that in the past the library has had success with its Story Walk project – depicting pages from picture books on poster boards and placing them along the trail in the park for families to read as they walk on the paths.  While this program was well received by the community in the past, the current setup is not ideal to withstand windy weather (during the big storms in 2020, the project lost several pages).

Ensor said the Office of Commonwealth Libraries had extra funds to disburse and would approve grants of $7,500 per project.  The library would like to apply for these funds and use them to put the poster pages up as a permanent fixture in the park (with strong posts placed around the concrete in reading height for children).

He requested GARA’s approval to install 20 posts in the park which would cost approximately $6,000.  The remaining funds of the grant would go to the purchase of the books (it takes about three books per story to cut and prepare for posting on each Story Walk).  Since the grant application is due at the end of January, the Library would need a decision from GARA soon to agree to host the signs.

The board discussed maintenance responsibilities, installation of the posts and other aspects related to the project.  Board Chair Steve Niebler commented that the Story Walks are impressive but must look well maintained which the library is committed to take on.  Niebler also suggested that perhaps a scout organization might want to take on the installation of the posts as a community project. The board also noted that the Story Walk would be a great addition on Children’s Day once the Farmers Market comes to the park.  The board unanimously voted to support the Story Walk posts project.

Financial Report:  The board then discussed the financial report presented by Executive Director, Erin Peddigree, and approved it for filing for audit.

Directors Report: Peddigree then reported that one tree fell on a fence in the park during the last winter storm. The tree was removed and the damaged fence was fixed.

Peddigree also reported that GARA received the last piece of updated equipment for the maintenance staff. A new Gator truck will now replace the old 1987 truck that had been used up until now.

Peddigree outlined maintenance plans for the winter: painting the assembly room; touching up the rest rooms; cleaning up the Youth Activities building and kitchen; waxing floors; running backflow and fire extinguisher tests and preparing the buildings for the upcoming season.

Peddigree said the Christmas Festival had gone well; particularly, the trolley seemed to have been popular and will be set up again in next year’s festival.

Various rentals are in the books for January, as well as regular meetings in February for Black History Month.

The Giving Spree brought in $9,041.84, which is $3,000 more than GARA received last year.  Pedigree is sending out thank you cards.

The annual audit, performed by SEK CPAs went well and the auditors mentioned to Niebler and Peddigree had done a great job in complying with all requests.

Peddigree and Reza Djalal from the Farmers Market will begin meeting each month to collaborate on this year’s Farmers Market season.  The first Farmers Market exhibit is planned for April 29th.

Peddigree said she and Djalal were still waiting for an update on the grant application they had submitted jointly. She did receive an email from the grant office inquiring into plans for how funds were to be used, if only a partial grant were approved.

The estimates for roof repair of the Weikert field and Amphitheater came in from Alam B. Roofing and Coldsmith Roofing. The estimates varied considerably between basic roof repairs and full roof repair with additional underlying damage repair underneath the roof.  The board voted to award the contract to Coldsmith.  The $1,500 awarded by the Optimist Club towards the repair work will be used toward the total cost.  Work should be started in about four to six weeks.

Peddigree then asked the board to approve the purchase of new chairs and additional tables to replace the old chairs in the assembly room which were badly stained and hard to clean.  Peddigree had priced chairs at Sams Club which amounted to roughly $4,000 for 60 chairs and a few extra tables.  A motion to authorize the purchase of the chairs and tables at Sams Club was approved.  Since delivery would cost an additional $2,000, Pedigree will organize picking the furniture up – Board Vice-Chair Steve Toddes offered his truck.

Niebler then suggested finding an artist to paint the background wall in the Hall of Fame.  “I could envision big orchids across the wall, which would be particularly nice for weddings and receptions”, he said.  Board members will look into finding an appropriate artist.

Peddigree also reported that all vendors from last year’s 4th of July celebration have agreed to return for this year’s festival.

With respect to finding a replacement for retired maintenance employee, Steve Williams, Ms. Peddigree will start promoting the job opening in February.

The next GARA board meeting be on Feb. 13, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. in the Charlie Sterner Building.

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Donate Gardner is a freelance journalist who came to Gettysburg in 2021 from Montgomery County, Maryland.
A former linguist-turned-legal professional, Donate recently retired from the corporate world and is eager to support her new community in a variety of ways. As an immigrant born, raised, and educated in Germany, Donate still maintains a strong connection to the German language as a freelance writer and translator. Donate is an active musician and has made her new home in Gettysburg available to host house concerts for traveling musicians and local artists in need of support. Donate and her husband have two daughters and three grandchildren.

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