Laubach-Franko Master Plan approved; officials laud proposal, eager to implement
The Master Site Development Plan for the William H. Laubach Memorial Park and Franko Farm Recreation Area that calls for an estimated $5 million in improvements is being lauded to upgrade recreation on the east side of Salisbury Township.
“What we tried to do was take a little bit of the overcrowding from Laubach and shift it to Franko,” said Leonard J. Policelli, landscape architect, project manager, Urban Research & Development Corp., Bethlehem, consultant for the Laubach-Franko Master Plan.
The Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously 5-0 on a motion by Commissioner Joanne Ackerman and seconded by Commissioner James Seagreaves at the Jan. 26 township meeting to accept the master plan, which envisions major changes at the 14.25-acre Laubach Park, Lehigh and Fairview Avenues, and the 93.72-acre Franko Farm Park, Black River Road.
“We’re really happy with the results,” Policelli said. “We’d like to get stared on it as soon as possible.”
First, however, a hydrology study must be completed for Laubach Park. Township commissioners voted at the Dec. 8, 2016, meeting for Gilmore & Associates, Inc. to do the study.
During public hearings for the master plan, residents in the vicinity of Laubach complained about runoff problems around the park, which contains a pond, a creek and a flood plain.
A rough estimate for improvements to Laubach is $3 million and for Franko, it’s $1.7 million.
Construction for improvements to Laubach and Franko is not expected to begin until 2018 or 2019. The first contracts could be awarded in 2017.
The 22-member Laubach Park Master Site Plan Steering Committee has met nearly every month, starting with a tour of Laubach July 20, 2015, for a total of 12 meetings.
Members of the committee included Salisbury Township Recreation Director Genny Baillie, Commissioner Vice President Robert Martucci, Jr., and Commissioner Debra Brinton.
Of the master plan, Baillie said, “I’m excited just to see the improvements, especially at Laubach. I’m anxious to get started.”
Said Martucci, “I’m glad to see that Laubach Park is being updated from its present condition. And I’m glad that we can go to complete activities at Franko.”
Said Brinton, “I’m very happy that Laubach Park is going to be upgraded and that we got the neighborhood to express their concerns, and that those suggestions we tried to incorporate.”
The one-inch-thick, 115-page master plan booklet includes a recap of public participation in the master plan; information about township parks; sites, facilities and activities analysis; goals for parks improvements; design considerations, process and costs, maintenance and operating costs; photographs, and maps.
Laubach is to include the addition of a perimeter walking path, similar to that added at Lindberg Park, where there have been concerns voiced about the width of the path.
Brinton asked Policelli about the width of the walking path proposed for Laubach.
Policelli said the master plan takes the width of the path into consideration.
“I don’t want the same issues in Laubach,” Briinton said.
Some residents complained that the new perimeter walkway in Lindberg is not wide enough to accommodate persons pushing baby strollers, persons walking their dogs and bicyclists.
“Right now, I can say the width is enough to walk a dog. Eight-foot is the standard width,” Policelli said of the Laubach perimeter path plan, adding, “What it really comes down to is a cost of materials.”
Impervious material, or a paved surface, is less expensive than Flexi-Pave material, which is porous and better manages runoff, and was used at Lindberg.
“There’s enough room for people to maneuver,” Policelli said. “The wider you make it, the faster they are going to go. You make it like a highway and they will drive like it’s a highway.”
Policelli reassured Brinton, “We will bring that up as we make development plans.”
In the Laubach plan, a parking lot on the north side of the park would be eliminated to make way for an inclusive playground and a pickleball court. There would be 37 on-street parking spaces created along Lehigh Avenue, with curbing and sidewalks.
The Salisbury Youth Association (SYA) uses Laubach extensively for practice and games. The consensus is that SYA needs more fields.
The Laubach plan calls for moving tennis courts from Laubach to Franko, removing a softball field, relocating basketball courts closer to Lehigh Avenue, shifting the baseball field and relocating the football field.
The Laubach plan would add a 0.6-mile perimeter pathway, plant native trees and restore riparian buffers around the pond and along the creek.
A pavilion would be built closer to Lehigh Avenue to make the facility safer.
Restrooms, a concession stand and a storage shed would be built. Laubach restrooms do not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
Overall, Laubach Park Priority Actions are:
Protect and improve water quality at Trout Creek and Laubach Pond by restoring 50-foot buffers, creating wetland to pond and not direct discharges to creek.
Improve active facilities, condition, size, over-used turf, flooded dugouts and playgrounds by relocating playground, relocating one ball field and football field and relocating tennis court.
Provide Americans With Disabilities Act access to facilities and walking paths.
Manage storm water using best management practices.
Franko Farm Priority Actions are:
Retain passive elements, including community gardens, walking paths, woods and steep slopes and pond and pavilions.
Provide ADA access to facilities.
Additional 90-foot ball field, tennis courts, disc golf, multi-purpose area, nature playground, additional walking loops and invasive plant removal.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources approved a $26,700 Community Conservation Partnership Program Grant for the Laubach Park Master Plan and Recreation Connections Project. The grant was matched with an equal amount from the township for the $55,400 project, which is the cost of the master plan.