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Berks officials approve master plan for Angora Fruit Farm

A master plan that will guide future improvements at the Angora Fruit Farm portion of Antietam Lake Park has received unanimous approval.

The Berks County commissioners last week greenlit a master plan that will serve as a blueprint for recreation and conservation initiatives at the site. The plan was developed over several years with input from the county parks department, local organizations and community members.

The county purchased the 22-acre farm in 2013. The parcel is surrounded by Antietam Lake Park, and the hope behind taking on the property was that incorporating the farm into a park would prevent it from being developed.

That idea is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The master plan was first presented to the commissioners during a March operations meeting. Chuck Strodoski of YSM Landscape Architects, the company hired to develop the plan, said then that it was clear from the start of the process that the farm parcel had a lot of potential.

“It does a lot for the park and serves a lot of different purposes that the park could not do without it,” he said. “There were some neat opportunities for the farm that we recognized right away.”

Strodoski said the proposed initiatives will make the site a premier location for community members to explore, especially for children who want to learn more about environmental education and conservation efforts.

A master plan for the Angora Fruit Farm portion of Antietam Lake Park is shown. (Courtesy of YSM Landscape Architects)
A master plan for the Angora Fruit Farm portion of Antietam Lake Park is shown. (Courtesy of YSM Landscape Architects)

The master plan includes:

• An educational center with a small amphitheater that will serve as the centerpiece for the upgraded area.

• A natural playground space.

• An expanded parking lot with an overflow area and spaces to accommodate school buses and facilitate field trips.

• New restroom facilities, pavilions and a fire pit.

• Walking and biking trails that will take visitors through meadows, orchards and transitional forests. Markers will be placed along the paths to educate guests about what they are seeing and the purpose it serves to the overall environment.

• Observational bee hives, a rain garden and a trellis garden will serve as learning opportunities for visitors.

Strodoski said the plan would be implemented in four stages. Constructing an expanded parking lot and establishing a walking trail are the first tasks on the list to introduce the community to the space.

He said the last stage, and what is likely to be the most expensive part of the plan, would include building the educational center and developing the space surrounding it.

“We’re excited about this plan and we think it will be a really nice complement to the overall Antietam Lake Park,” he said.

Implementing the plan, however, will take time.

Brendan Lederer, assistant director of the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department, said there is no plan to seek additional money for the project from the county at this point and that any funding for it would be obtained through the normal budget process.

Following the presentation, Commissioner Christian Leinbach said he was very impressed with the plan and believes the final vision for the space is something that can be attainable.

“I’m very excited about what this could be and it meets the expectations that I had when we first acquired this land,” he said.

That being said, he noted there will be budget considerations moving forward but that he supports the proposal in principle. He suggested the county consider reaching out to local businesses who could enter into a private-public partnership to sponsor and help fund pieces of the project.

“We should really think about something like that,” he said.

Source: Berkshire mont

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