Ambassador Planners Move Forward
MONTGOMERY – Last Tuesday morning on January 12, John D. Lynch, Borough Manager for Montgomery, was more than happy to assist a group of eager students from Montgomery School District by showing them the existing site of the Old Mill Corridor along Route 405. “These young people will be able to plan their future,” he said.
He showed about sixteen youth, known as the Youth Ambassador Team, some existing buildings left over from the textile industry and explained their history. The youth were curious about the old Rochelle building said Lynch as he interpreted how baby furniture was manufactured there up until the late 70’s. Other sites that were visited by the young ambassadors were the old shipping docks and places where buildings once stood but were later destroyed by fire. Before returning back to the school for a work sessions, the students wanted to see the Little League ball fields and the nearby park area. One of the key items the students want to address in their planning is to add additional recreational opportunities to the project for all ages.
The Youth Ambassador Team for the Old Mill Corridor Project were able to take a day from their regular school agenda and work at the district’s office conference room where they brainstormed some ideas to develop the corridor. Rachelle Ricotta from the Lycoming County Planning and Community Development department and Rene Rhine, economic development planner with the Williamsport Lycoming Chamber of Commerce worked with the students for the day by dividing them up into four teams of four. Students volunteered from grades eight and nine and the finalists were chosen by their peers through a democratic selection process according to Paul Roman, their history teacher. “One boy and one girl from each class plus alternates were chosen,” he said. “We told the kids to choose your peers well, as they want them to be their voice for this project,” Roman added. “This is extra work for them so they will still be responsible for their regular class work,”
The first part of the morning the students got a planning refresher from Ricotta and Rhine, then learned about the S.W.O.T. (strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats) analysis process before going on the field trip to the site.
Upon returning from the field trip, the sixteen planners immediately broke into work groups and brainstormed ideas for each of the four S.W.O.T. areas. “This is a good way to gear them up for the future corridor program, a progressive program that has yet to take place ever in Lycoming County to this extent,” comments Rhine as she assists one of the group teams.
Before the groups broke for lunch, the young planners discussed their future ideas. Many felt the location was a good space for future development because of easy access. It is close to the park and recreation areas. The existing buildings can be transformed into retail or office space, they thought. The railroad is also there for use and there’s lots of room for additional recreational areas said the teams.
“There should be more recreational areas and more grocery stores,” said Lyndsie Peterson, a ninth grader. “I would like to see more grocery stores and restaurants. We have to go to Muncy to get everything,” she said.
As for weaknesses and threats, all agreed flooding and contamination should be addressed as well as rebuilding the weak infrastructure. Water and sewer upgrades will be a problem they agreed, and surrounding neighborhoods have limited access. Overall, the buildings are unstable and cash flow would also be a problem they thought.
Their foresight saw enough opportunities for more retail such as a strip plaza that would include eating establishments, warehouse space and more entertainment. One team suggested a medical facility such as a small clinic or hospital be on site for the Montgomery area. Another group suggested an increase in industry or manufacturing to create jobs, and others said more housing and increase the neighborhoods to build economic development.
Emily Scryder from 8 grade said, “I wanted to volunteer so I can know what we can do to help our community. I would like to see a swimming pool in our area.”
The afternoon sessions were successful according to Ricotta as the students discussed results from a survey that the entire student body took before the groups were selected. Corey Kriner said that he got a better understanding of what his community needs.
A good lesson was accomplished on preliminary municipal planning. The students learned about map boards, working in teams, partnerships, and so much more. “From here they will go back to their classes this week and share what they learned and ask for input before their next session on January 26,” said Brad Laidacker, a 9th grade social studies teacher helping the teams with the city planning process.
The students will continue working until February 9 when they will present their final proposal to the rest of the student body at the school auditorium. Funding is made possible through the Williamsport-Lycoming Community Foundation.