Crawford County commissioners are expected to weigh in next week on whether the county should pursue a multimillion dollar grant to improve the French Creek corridor.

At the commissioners' work session Wednesday, Zachary Norwood, the county's planning director, requested approval for a resolution authorizing a grant application to the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which oversees many investments in Pennsylvania's economic growth, and the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Norwood is hoping the county will apply for a Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) grant, which, if the county receives it, could provide up to $3 million that may be used toward the French Creek Heritage and Entertainment District Multimodal Corridor, a new development along French Creek near Bessemer Street in Meadville. The county plans to oversee the development in partnership with the City of Meadville and the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County.

Norwood explained to the commissioners that they are waiting to hear finalized budget numbers from Ashley Porter, Meadville's city engineer, to solidify project costs. The project would include a 10-foot-wide pedestrian path along Bessemer Street from the Bessemer Commerce Park to Mead Avenue, two shelters for Crawford Area Transportation Authority buses, street lighting, signage, trees and upgrades to Bicentennial Park.

It is the first of a two-stage approach to highlight French Creek as a recreational resource. It is based on Meadville's comprehensive parks and recreation plan developed in 2013 and 2016.

The application for the grant is due July 31, and according to Norwood, the county is making the application on behalf of the city and managing the project moving forward.

"We wouldn't be putting it forward if we didn't think we would receive funding," Norwood said in an interview.

The concept for the French Creek Heritage and Entertainment District Multimodal Corridor was initially presented in August 2018 by Roger Willis of Meadville at the Winslow Award Dinner. The district would combine recreation, conservation, education, cultural and economic opportunities as the area along French Creek is strategically developed.

Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. was positive about the possibilities for the district, noting the local events that draw people in and the need for more permanent options for activities.

"I think it can certainly be an economic driver for the area," Weiderspahn said in an interview. "The plans are eventually they'd like to have a hotel down there and some other amenities. I think it could be a real boost to the area."

Commissioners are expected to vote on the resolution to authorize the grant application at their July 24 meeting.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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