Montgomery Students Learn Municipal Planning As They Become Part of Old Mill Corridor Project
MONTGOMERY – The Montgomery Corridor has become one of two major renewal projects in the county. It is no doubt the operational framework for economic structure in Montgomery. Located south of Montgomery Borough on Route 405 it is known as the Old Mill Corridor. Currently ‘an eyesore’ by many residents, it once thrived with textile mills down near the river. The railroad tracks were used to transport the silks. However, the property is now in a constant state of deterioration.
The students of Montgomery Area School District were asked by Lycoming County’s Planning Department to take part in the planning process of reviving the Old Mill Corridor. Rachelle Ricotta, community development planner for Lycoming County approached Daphne Ross, School Superintendent to engage the students in the municipal planning process so that their ideas can be integrated into the official Corridor Plan. From this, the Youth Ambassador Program was established, and it will consist of sixteen youth leaders who will then lead smaller groups. The youth were chosen from seventh and eighth grades as they will be the ones who will be around to see the reality of their planning vision. “These youth can be involved during the entire process and still be here once the plan is implemented,” said social studies teacher, Mr.Laidacker who will be in charge of the small groups. Mr. Roman, another social studies teacher will also be working on the project and giving out the assignments.
Rene Rhine, an economic development specialist with the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce will be assisting Ricotta and the school district with the project. Both women were at the school during an assembly program on Wednesday morning, December 2 to discuss the entire project with the students who will be involved. Their input and ideas will be considered in the planning process.
The women explained the process of municipal planning and presented their action plan with a time line, results from the feasibility study and the historical background of the Old Mill Corridor. The feasibility study will be used as an educational tool throughout the Youth Ambassador program according to Ricotta. They presented visionary ideas and an action plan based on workshops held on October 29. They showed them some maps
The sixteen groups will work on their assignments during January and February and present their ideas and suggestions to a Montgomery Council meeting in February. About 160 youth will be involved. “Only 24 are acting as representatives for their classes,” said Laidhacker. For the next two months Rhine and Ricotta will be in the school working with the students. “We will be working on setting visions and goals,” they said. We will be doing Planning 101 and community development. For example, will the students want recreational activities such as roller blading or walking trails, a park, or a riverwalk? Or they could plan ball fields, a farmer’s market or a dog park. “We will implement action with vision,” added Rhine.
They will learn about community assets, zoning, codes enforcement, urban design, subdivision and land development. “We will work together on all types of plans and plan all of the work together to help build a better community for your families in the future,” Ricotta explained to the students.
A field trip to the site to see what is really needed is planned for January. In the meantime, students will begin by taking a survey which is also available on www.lyco.org, the Lycoming county’s website. Workshops in the classroom will begin after the field trip. “We will use the S.W.O.T approach,” said Ricotta, “using analysis, strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities, and assets and needs.” She also advised them about flood control in the area and should consider flooding during the planning process. “We want the students to have this voice in their government. They will learn so much,” she explained.
The women gave out prizes of metal water bottles to those students who answered questions correctly after they gave the presentation. Once the vision was shared, the redevelopment scenarios that the Youth Ambassador Program comes up with will soon become realistic and promising.