Dam Park Plan Receives Planning Excellence Award

HARRISBURG – On Tuesday, October 16, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA Chapter of APA) held its Annual Awards Luncheon in Erie, where almost 300 attendees celebrated the esteemed award winners of this year’s highly competitive program.

Among the recipients were the Austin Dam Memorial Association (ADMA), Borough of Austin and Potter County Visitors Association (PCVA) who received a Planning Excellence Award – Best Practice for The Dam Park at Austin: Master Plan & Economic Development Strategies. Two Planning Excellence Awards – Best Practice were awarded. The second went to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission.

In honoring the organizations that collaboratively worked to complete the plan, the PA Chapter of APA noted, “The Austin Dam plan was more than a park master plan and economic development strategy. It also helped Austin reflect on its own, but lesser known, historic flood tragedy. The plan helped the community to realize what it has, the story it can tell, and how to capitalize by promoting the unique history, environment, and culture of days past and present. With limited resources, the community has begun rebranding “the whole Dam story,” undertaking improvements in the park, and promoting local events and businesses for economic development along Austin’s Main Street.”  PCVA Executive Director, David Brooks, accepted the award on behalf of the organizations.

“This is a tremendous honor for all involved in developing the plan,” said Brooks. “A project like this is a huge undertaking for a small community. Many people provided their time, talent and ideas and the plan that was developed as a result is nothing short of outstanding. For the PA Chapter of APA to recognize Austin alongside other award recipients like Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh really demonstrates the capacity of this community to make big things happen.”

This is the fourth award the master site plan for the Dam Park has earned for the partners involved in developing it. Last October, Brooks received the Business Person of the Year Award from the Coudersport Chamber of Commerce, in part due to his leadership in coordinating the plan, as well as the highly successful Austin Flood Centennial. In April, Brooks received the 2012 PA Wilds Outstanding Leader Award for revitalizing the Austin Dam Memorial Association and for his leadership through the planning process. In May, the Austin Borough Council and community of Austin received the “Do 6” Award for Heritage Community of the Year from the PA Route 6 Alliance. Terri Dennison, Executive Director of the PA Route 6 Alliance, cited the Austin Borough Council as a “great example of how a town’s administration can partner with other organizations and the private business sector to improve the fate of its community.”

After planning meetings with ADMA, PCVA, Austin’s business owners and government officials, as well as public input sessions, the plan was designed by Pashek Associates Landscape Architects of Pittsburgh and Albertin-Vernon Architecture of Loganton and was funded through grants from DCNR and DCED. The plan establishes strategies for ADMA to make physical improvements to the park in a manner that incorporates historical interpretation of the story of the Austin flood and honors its victims, as well as strategies to encourage economic development in Austin by connecting the park and the town.

Implementation of the plan thus far has resulted in a rough cut road connecting the Borough of Austin to the Dam Park, which was completed at no cost through ADMA’s partnership with Patterson Lumber Company. ADMA is currently on working on building a permanent stage at the park and establishing a small information center/retail space in the park’s pavilion.

Those interested in learning more or assisting ADMA in its work are encouraged to attend the organization’s meetings, held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 PM at the E.O. Austin Home & Museum.

For more information about the PA Chapter of APA, visit www.planningpa.org.