West Penn Township prioritizing recreation for community
Outdoor recreation demand has been at an all-time high over the past calendar year.
West Penn Township has been busy ensuring that locals have countless outdoor opportunities right now, but more importantly, in the future.
There are many plans in action relating to a pair of township parks; Morgan Park and Atlas Park. Dating back to 2020, township supervisors have made efforts to enhance Morgan Park, formerly known as West Penn Park East.
“We’re going to put a second pavilion down there, and we’ve got the funding for bathrooms,” said Glenn Hummel, West Penn supervisor. “Baseball and soccer are down there now. The big thing we want to do is promote it, so people can go ahead and use the pavilions, because it’s overbooked every year. One of the things I wanted to do was give the people of the community a place to have family activities - weddings, gatherings, whatever they want, but it’s also revenue generation for the township.”
Hummel said the Morgan Foundation donated $50,000 to the township toward the park. West Penn then applied for a $90,000 grant through DCNR, which was received in 2020. The township was required to match $30,000, while DCNR gave it the remaining $60,000.
Turning on the lights
The park had a shed and a pavilion, but no electric to either structure.
Hummel said last summer electricity was hooked up to the shed, which evolved into a concession stand, with help from the Tamaqua Area Youth Soccer Association.
“It pays back tremendously in the use for kids coming up there, families that have to get to practices and games and don’t have time to eat. The big goal was to put some nutritional value up there,” Hummel added.
West Penn signed a nonbinding lease with the Tamaqua Area Youth Soccer Association, who are responsible for maintaining the soccer fields. The township did the same with the Tamaqua Area Baseball Association, who will take care of the baseball fields.
In return, both area youth organizations can utilize Morgan Park as a main venue to schedule their games and events.
According to Hummel, youth soccer alone brought 430 kids to Morgan Park last fall. The park offers one baseball field and one full-sized soccer field, while there is the creation of two smaller fields, allowing for younger ages to compete.
“That’s the great thing, working with Tim (Houser) and Tony (Prudenti), we had same ideas and goals,” said Hummel. “One of the things we agreed is that place needs water, a bathroom, another pavilion and a parking area.”
The future: Atlas Park
There are big plans for West Penn’s Atlas Park project.
In July 2020, the West Penn board of supervisors accepted an agreement with resident Dennis D’Angelo, who donated 26 acres of land at Bella Terra Farms LLC to the township.
That’s where Atlas Park will call its home.
“I couldn’t thank him enough when he made that offer,” Hummel said. “There is such a historical connection with this community for Atlas Park.”
D’Angelo’s generous donation opened up a whole new “ballgame” for project possibilities.
“If we can pay it forward to have a place to play for the kids, my job is done,” said Hummel. “We realized we had common goals we’re trying to achieve and it met with his goals of trying to pay it forward to the community.”
With the donation agreement set to officially fall into place later this year, West Penn was able to apply for a DCNR grant for Atlas Park.
“That’s in the works right now, we applied for it, they have it. It goes through their committees,” Hummel said. Sometime around September or October, we should get word whether or not that it’s been awarded. If it does get awarded, it helps us catalyst this quickly.
“If it doesn’t get awarded, we’ll have to put our feet on the street and reach for more donations to help get us where we want to go.”
Hummel said the matching grant is the value of the land, doubled, which is anywhere between $250,000-$300,000. Hummel said the donation of the land qualifies as the match - meaning no money out of the township’s pocket for this massive applied-for grant.
Plans and goals for Atlas Park include baseball and soccer fields, dog park, Frisbee area and nature trails around the entire perimeter of the property for walking and biking. Perhaps the biggest component of the project is the proposed building of a large recreational center.
Hummel said he approached the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission about signing an open-ended lease with West Penn regarding the rec-center building. The ESRC would hypothetically become tasked with the maintenance and scheduling for the building, but the township would own it.
“This isn’t a one-man effort,” said West Penn board chairman Tony Prudenti. “This is an effort put together with a majority of the township workers on board. We’re looking forward to seeing this thing through fruition. A special thanks to Glenn Hummel and Tim Houser. We can’t thank DCNR, Jerry Knowles and Dave Argall enough, who are behind this project 100%.”
There is no recreational center in Tamaqua. The Tamaqua YMCA, which offered indoor activity options to the community for many years, closed its doors in 2020.
“I am in full support of this funding to help with the development of Atlas Park in West Penn Township,” said Rep. Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill). “This new park will provide a safe place for kids to interact with their peers, as well as teaching them how to share fairly, to play cooperatively, and to collaborate as part of a group. This new park will be a source of positive economic benefits. It enhances property values, increases municipal revenue, brings in homebuyers and workers and attract retirees.”