From River Towns to Great Places

September 14, 2018

Congratulations are in order for two Susquehanna Greenway River Towns, and we couldn’t be prouder! Lock Haven and Woodward Township’s combined Susquehanna Riverfront received the designation of a 2018 Great Public Place in Pennsylvania, and Williamsport’s Susquehanna River Walk received the designation of a 2018 Great Greenway/Trail. Both designations are part of the annual nomination process hosted by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA).

According to the Pennsylvania Chapter of the APA, a Great Public Space is “a vibrant place where people of all ages gather to play, socialize, enjoy a meal or concert, relax, or just enjoy the outdoors. It is a focal point for community events, which brings people together and bolsters the economy.”

In recognition of the criteria above, The Greater Lock Haven Riverfront was bestowed this designation during its annual Labor Day Regatta this past September. The Riverfront has been a valued asset to the communities since the launch of the Lock Haven Flood Protection Project in 1986. At the time, the project was controversial due to the construction of a levee, but a local planning team participated in the design phase to make the levee a resource for the community.

Since the project’s completion in 1995, it has provided locals with amenities such as a riverwalk and park, a pavilion, access ramps, bleacher seating, a concrete swimming enclosure to revive the YMCA beach, an amphitheater, a seasonal floating stage, and a public boat launch (in Woodward township). These facilities have made the Riverfront a cherished place for everyday recreation and for annual events like the Labor Day Speedboat Regatta, Riverfest, Great Island Adventure Triathlon, and a summer concert series on a floating stage.

Jerry Walls, a retired professional planner representing the Pennsylvania Chapter of the APA and the Chair of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s Board of Directors spoke to The Lock Haven Express, praising town officials in his remarks, “[Their] leadership and successful riverfront will inspire more of our Susquehanna River Towns to capitalize on this approach to economic development and active, healthy lifestyles.”

Looking to future endeavors of the waterfront, Clinton County officials are working to build a rail-trail from Castanea Township to Wayne Township in order to connect to the Pine Creek Rail Trail. This trail represents an important link within the Susquehanna Greenway.

Williamsport was likewise recognized as a 2018 Great Greenway/Trail by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the APA for its Susquehanna River Walk, which has connected many local communities since its first envisioning in 2000. Today the River Walk acts as a key link between the communities of the City of Williamsport, South Williamsport Borough, Armstrong Township, and Loyalsock Township and Montoursville Borough (via the Susquehanna Bikeway). In addition to its 4.2 miles of trail, the River Walk boasts several linkages to residential areas, schools, parks, and downtowns, as well as plans for future connectors.

In addition to providing panoramic scenery of the Susquehanna and recreational opportunities that foster a healthy community, the River Walk also offers views of nesting locations for bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and migrating birds. The announcement of Williamsport’s designation was made during STEP Inc.’s Pathway to Fitness dedication at the STEP River Walk Center in South Williamsport on August 10th.

The Sun-Gazette reported on the event, recording Dick Koch, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the APA and member of the SGP Board of Directors, who announced “You have done really outstanding work here. This is the best I’ve seen in the entire Susquehanna River basin and you should give yourselves credit for that … Looking at what you’ve done now and what you have planned in the future — I think it’s one of the most remarkable stories up and down the Susquehanna River.”

Mark Murawski, a Lycoming County transportation supervisor who oversaw much of the river walk project, shared future plans for the Riverwalk: “This is a great place, but we can make it a greater place,” he said. “We are working on the design of a top-10 trail gap in Pennsylvania, which is extending this River Walk from Maynard Street over to Susquehanna State Park.”

We at the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership commend Lockhaven, Woodward Township, and Williamsport for their well-deserved designations. Their continued efforts to maintain and develop their waterfronts for the good of local communities and ecosystems have gained them recognition as Great Places and Greenways/Trails in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Congratulations! We look forward to seeing your places thrive and continue to serve as models for towns in the Susquehanna Greenway and beyond.