COCHRANTON — A community partnership effort means Cochranton's Lions Park will remain a public facility for the community.
Ownership of Lions Park transferred from Cochranton Lions Club to the borough on Aug. 17 — keeping the park available for public use.
Established as a community project by the Cochranton Lions Club in 1960, the park had started to become a challenge for the Lions Club to maintain, David Pickens, the club's secretary said.
"There's only eight of us and we're all of retirement age, so it was a challenge with the upkeep," Pickens said. "We began looking to see who was available to take it over."
When the YMCA of Meadville's Cochranton branch inquired about putting in a pickle ball court at the park, that kicked off talks between the Lions and the YMCA, Pickens said. The YMCA then got in touch with Cochranton Area Redevelopment Effort, or CARE, a nonprofit community development group.
The groups then approached Cochranton Borough Council in the spring about putting property ownership in the hands of the borough.
"The borough is in the best position for funding sources," Pickens said.
Cochranton Mayor Mark Roche, who also is on CARE's board, agrees.
"It makes it easier to look for improvement grants from the state if it's owned by the borough," Roche said.
The borough, YMCA and CARE will work together, but in different roles for the park, Roche said.
"With the borough, it's things like maintenance and utilities while CARE would do fund raising and the YMCA would handle activities and programming," Roche said.
There already have been some improvements to the park in the past few years.
From 2016 to early 2018, CARE, along with the Lions Club, conducted a $50,000 fundraising effort to replace and refurbish playground equipment. The new equipment was installed and dedicated in 2018.
With the park's future secure, efforts now will turn toward long-range planning, Roche said. There's about 16 acres at the park including some uncleared land.
The first step will be to set up a committee to review the park's current facilities and include some community members at large, Roche said.
The park has four picnic pavilions, restrooms, a playground, a basketball court, a large field for soccer and other uses, and a walking trail.
"Long-term, there could be an expansion of the walking trail," Roche said. "It could be extended (east) toward Cochranton Cemetery."
Land on the eastern side of the property also could be cleared for additional parking and recreational fields or other park facilities, he said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.