(left to right) Rosselli, Funk, Ebert, Whitney,
At the Oct. 21 community breakfast, hosted by the Clarion University Community Relations Committee, interested citizens and community leaders heard from four speakers and participated in a discussion on how best to create a comprehensive regional recreation plan to serve the region.
Clarion University President Karen Whitney welcomed the guests and Clarion Mayor Andrea Estadt, who co-chairs the committee with Harry Tripp, the university's VP for student and university affairs, introduced the four speakers and moderated the discussion.
"I cannot stress enough what we are talking about today: a regional plan, not a Clarion Borough plan," she said. "The Borough took the initiative and quickly realized the need extended far beyond its borders."
First up was Brandi Rosselli, AICP, the manager of planning services for Mackin Engineering, the firm with which the Clarion Borough has contracted to develop the plan. She outlined the current project, addressed its importance, and emphasized the key role partnerships will play.
"With limited resources you need to work together," she said.
Ms. Rosselli and Mackin have recently completed lead roles for various planning and public involvement projects, including comprehensive plans for Lawrence, Allegheny, and Washington counties.
Potential goals for the plan include: improving existing parks and recreation facilities; developing and expanding partnerships with regional organizations to provide new recreation facilities and programs; capitalizing on the Clarion River to enhance parks and recreation; and exploring interest in creating a regional parks and recreation committee to oversee recreation in the Clarion region.
She noted that more information is available online at http://www.mackinengineering.com/clarion/forum/
Eric Funk, the manager of the new Clarion branch of Community First Bank (to open next month) and past president of the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation, talked about how a regional plan will positively impact economic develop. He noted the region would benefit in four key ways. It would attract new businesses, add new jobs, reduce "brain drain from the region, and create lasting partnerships that will result in future development and cooperation.
Mike Ebert, program director at the Clarion County YMCA for the past five years, outlined the success of the "Healthy Friends" partnership between the YMCA and Clarion Hospital and listed a series of other local partnerships between the Y and area high schools, Clarion University, and businesses.
"We are going to have a plan as a result of partnerships - there is no other way to do it," he said. "The plan is not just for future children and residents, it's for today's children, grandparents, neighbors, and friends."
Seth Babington, doctor of physical therapy and director of Clarion Rehabilitative Services - and someone who could choose to live anywhere - talked about why he, his wife and their three daughters live in this region.
"This is a great place to live - nice people, no traffic, and little crime," he said. "A recreation plan will only make the region more attractive."
He also posed the question, "Can we afford it?" His answer: "We cannot afford not to do it. It will never be cheaper. It would have been cheaper to create the plan in 2000, but it will be less expensive now than to wait until 2020."
In concluding his remarks, Babington everyone to work together and "pull the rope in the same direction."
At the end of the breakfast, attendees were encouraged to complete a survey about the plan.
"We want your input," the major concluded. "Please go to the website and get involved."
The breakfast was held at the in the American Legion Banquet Room on Main Street, Clarion and catered by Chartwells Catering Services.
The next community breakfast will be held in the spring and feature Clarion University President Karen Whitney, who will outline her plans for Clarion University.
Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.