A fast-growing park on the Quemahoning Reservoir is a step closer to a big expansion.
Conemaugh Township supervisors approved a site plan Wednesday that will enable the operators of Quemahoning Family Recreation Area to build more rustic cabins and a new shower house and expand two parking lots that are often filled during summer weekends. New playground equipment and an expanded site for recreational vehicles are also planned.
It’s a move toward which the Cambria Somerset Authority received funding last year, on the heels of several straight years of increasing usage at the park.
“On weekends in the summer, the park can be packed ... and parking gets to the point where you have to park quite a ways away and hoof it to the beach,” said Jason Smith, Summer’s Best Two Weeks property director.
Summers Best Two Weeks, which runs the recreation area for the CSA, logs the number of vehicles that enter the park for day trips each season – 7,638 last summer, Smith said. That’s double the 2016 total. Combining that figure with numbers of pavilion renters, RV site users and tent campers, Smith’s group estimated that about 60,000 people spent time at Quemahoning Familiy Recreation Area last year.
“This project is pretty much going to get us to the size and space we need,” he said.
If weather permits it, necessary parking lot expansions and RV site improvements should be ready for visitors by the time the season kicks off in late May.
Department of Environmental Protection approval is needed before a shower house can be added between the main pavilion and beach, and a final building permit is also needed for two more rustic cabins and the installation of a park gazebo.
“We’re excited to get started,” Smith said, “and we are already lining up subcontractors for some of the work, but there are a lot of steps, so it’s going to depend on when we get our final approvals ... before we know when some of the other upgrades will be completed.”
Conemaugh Township supervisors’ unanimous approval of the site plans for the project Wednesday was another precursor to a final building permit. The township planning commission reviewed the plans for compliance and gave their approval Feb. 3, township Chairman Steve Buncich said.
Buncich also serves on the CSA board responsible for the Que reservoir and surrounding property. While he expressed enthusiasm about the latest round of upgrades, the parking lot expansions are just as important, he said.
It’s not just the parking lots that fill up on warm summer weekends, he explained. Once those areas run out of room, people start parking their cars on Quemahoning Dam Road, despite “No Parking” signs, causing issues for people passing through the area.
He said the township is planning to help expand a gravel Quemahoning Dam Road parking area, as well as another lot near the park’s soccer field.
Given the benefit that the park brings to the township and its residents, it’s a worthwhile effort, Supervisor Matt Mlaker said.
“Anytime you can get more people outdoors, more kids outdoors ... that’s a good thing,” Mlaker said. “And the more amenities we can have in our township, the more attractive it is for people to live here.”