Commissioners hired a company to appraise county-owned property.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Work on an environmental center and walking trail in Union Township will soon get under way.
Lawrence County Commissioners approved an $84,527.26 contract for G.B. Sand Co. of New Castle to start work on West Park, a county-owned park that has largely gone unused since it was acquired in the 1960s.
Officials say the want to transform the vacant land into a outdoor classroom to teach youngsters about nature and wildlife.
The work should be done by September, said Commissioner Brian Burick.
Plans call for the construction of nearly a mile of walking trails, footbridges and observation decks on about 25 acres off Old Youngstown Road.
There were plans at one time to turn the 100-acre plot of land into a traditional park with ball fields and playgrounds, but officials learned there was poor drainage and a danger of sinkholes throughout the park, Burick said.
Selling the land to developers wasn't possible because it had been bought with federal recreation dollars that prohibited any sale, Burick said.
One use: A few years ago commissioners did find one use for the land. Developers wanting to build a strip mall nearby needed to find a home for about eight acres of wetlands that were going to be destroyed by their development. Federal and state laws protect wetlands and require developers to replace them before building.
Commissioners agreed to the swap, and developers spent $400,000 putting in red maple trees, blueberry and cranberry shrubs and other plants. Wildlife, including ducks, geese, raccoons, deer and birds, have become frequent visitors.
Private and government grants will pay for most of the work.
In other business at their meeting Tuesday, commissioners:
UAgreed to hire Jerry Foster Jr. to monitor mosquitoes for the West Nile Virus. His salary will be paid by a $20,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Foster will work through Dec. 31.
UHired Industrial Appraisal Co. of Pittsburgh to appraise all property owned and insured by Lawrence County. The company will look at all county buildings, permanent fixtures, furniture, machinery and equipment. Chief County Clerk Charleen Micco said the county's last audit suggested an appraisal be done. It will cost $14,955.
UAnnounced Walker Mill Bridge in Wilmington Township will open Friday. It was closed to traffic last fall for repairs and deck replacement.