Sunday, February 25, 2024

‘We want a vibrant community.’ Bellefonte selected for Safe Route’s park access program

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Talleyrand Park, along with Bellefonte’s Masullo Park, is the focus of a Safe Routes to Parks initiative to improve walking routes and accessibility.

Talleyrand Park, along with Bellefonte’s Masullo Park, is the focus of a Safe Routes to Parks initiative to improve walking routes and accessibility.

Centre Daily Times, file

Looking forward to a walk in Bellefonte’s parks? Thanks to a new program, one local group is looking to make access to Talleyrand and Masullo parks a lot easier for residents.

Downtown Bellefonte Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to growing local businesses and preserving the town’s historic culture, was selected to join Safe Routes to Parks’ Pennsylvania Activating Communities. Safe Routes Partnership is a national nonprofit organization that works to improve walking access to schools and parks across the country.

For 2023, the organization granted four Pennsylvania cities — Bellefonte, Erie, Scranton and Shenandoah — training to help improve access to parks and green spaces.

For the next 10 months, Downtown Bellefonte Inc. will work with Safe Routes to develop a plan to improve walking routes from downtown Bellefonte to Talleyrand and Masullo parks. Jennilyn Schuster, main street manager for Downtown Bellefonte Inc., said the goal of the program is to connect all of Bellefonte’s outdoor assets. Not only would additional trails or walkways connect greenspaces, they would also connect communities and businesses separated by Spring Creek.

A major part of the grant is creating equitable and accessibly walkways that all community members can access, including those with mobility restrictions.

“Outdoor rec is essential, that’s what makes a vibrant community,” Schuster said. “There’s a huge physical and mental health factor in that too.”

Although previous feasibility studies have been done to see how parks could connect, those pathways are not yet in place. Safe Routes Partnership is not building the infrastructure needed for the project, the grant instead serves to assist and train local groups to take action. Schuster said Safe Routes will help guide the communities through the process to find grants and funding for the initiatives as well.

The grant will help Downtown Bellefonte Inc. build the framework to connect Talleyrand and Masullo park, but future plans could explore connecting Bellefonte parks to Krauss Park in Milesburg and The Arboretum at Penn State.

“We want a vibrant community, right?” Schuster said. “And we want to make sure that people have access to all of these outdoor amenities.”

Keely Doll is an education reporter and service journalist for the Centre Daily Times. She has previously worked for the Columbia Missourian and The Independent UK.

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