When: East Hempfield supervisors meeting, Jan. 18.
What happened: Township supervisors introduced a master concept plan for a recreation area at the corner of Church Street and Nolt Road, a 50-acre lot often referred to as the sod farm.
Details: Proposed park amenities include four baseball fields with restrooms, a concession stand, press box and seating, as well as tennis and pickleball courts, dog parks, a playground area with a pavilion, about 10 acres of flexible field sports areas, and 215 parking spots.
Lot history: The lot has been owned by East Hempfield Township since 1989, and it is zoned for open space/recreation. The township is leasing it to Hummer Turfgrass Systems for sod farming, currently for $13,700 per year.
Background: In 2022, township officials were approached by the Hempfield Youth Association regarding needs for baseball and softball fields in the area. Last August, supervisors voted 3-0 to create a master plan for a park at the property, assigning David Miller/Associates, an engineering firm the township works with, to draft the plan.
Public feedback: About 40 community members attended the meeting in person, and 15 people were streaming it through Zoom. During the public comment period, over a dozen residents spoke up, the majority voicing concerns. “If you can’t come up with a plan to show it’s a sustainable, financially sound program, taxes will go up,” said Joseph Galante, a community resident who works as a professor of accounting and taxation at Millersville University.
Main concerns: Parking and traffic, funding, and flooding/stormwater issues were brought up by several residents. Some also asked to see other alternatives presented before moving forward, suggesting passive recreation spaces rather than organized sports.
Support: A handful of community members spoke in favor of the plan, Cristine Maser among them: “This space has, from my understanding, always been designated for recreation, so it’s very nice to see it finally, hopefully, being turned into a recreational space.” She also pointed out that pickleball is a sport that’s growing immensely, and suggested they build more than one court for it. Jay Enoch, representing the youth association, said: “I think the plan recognizes the need for youth sports. … We’ve seen our registration numbers up significantly year after year.”
Quotable: “This is step one, and I think it’s worthy that we get something out there. Get the community’s eyes on it,” Chair Scott Wiglesworth pointed out, later adding that “this is not something that I’m willing to raise taxes for, and it’s not something I’m looking to go into debt for.”
Funding: The township has no funding for the project, and an estimated cost has not been set. The majority of funds would come from organizations and grants.
Next steps: There is no timeline for the completion of the park, which would be done in phases. The board of supervisors is planning to have the drafted plan on the agenda for several of their upcoming meetings. They also discussed possibly hosting an open house to hear community input. Unless otherwise noted, supervisors meet at 7 p.m. the first and the third Wednesday of the month, at the municipal building.