The Borough of Columbia, under a 99-year lease with the Old Columbia Public Grounds Company, is responsible along with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PAF&BC) for the management and maintenance of an approximate four acre parcel known as Columbia River Park. This Park, at the end of Walnut Street, contains a PAF&BC river access ramp and parking area, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, several charcoal grills and portable toilets in season. Borough Council in 2003 recognized the need to update and possibly expand the existing River Park northward.
Once this need and desire was established the next step was to obtain public input.
With the assistance of Columbia Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) and the National Park Service a facilitator, Sherwood Shankland of Shankland & Associates, assisted us in leading the initial public input or visioning session in November, 2003. Aside from the general public who were invited to participate, invitations were extended to business, stakeholders, non-profits, and government entities. Two additional visioning meetings followed where working groups dealt with four areas of interest: Designs for pedestrians, health, safety and Americans with Disabilities Act,
Designs for boating access and recreation, designs for historic/nature education and attractions, also Land acquisition and funding.
A grant application was submitted and awarded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that, along with Borough funds, provided for the hiring of a consultant to develop a master plan for the River Park Revitalization and Expansion Project. Derck & Edson Associates were selected and began work on the plan in September, 2004. By this time, monthly public meetings were being held by the Columbia Borough River Park Steering Group to facilitate this project. The steering group is comprised of residents, elected officials, business owners, sportsmen, and those interested in the project. The Columbia River Park Master Plan was completed in September, 2006.
The planning for the River Park needed to include planning for this site as a trailhead for the planned Northwest Lancaster County River Trail that will extend from Columbia north through Chickies Rock County Park, Marietta Borough, West Donegal and Conoy Townships. The River Park is also a designated stop on the Susquehanna River Water Trail.
The first quarter of 2007 the Borough solicited Request For Qualifications (RFQ’s) from various engineering firms for the River Park Project. The contract for engineering was awarded to Buchart-Horn,Inc in June, 2007. As of January, 2009 Buchart-Horn finalized the engineering and has prepared the bid and specifications for the site improvements to the current River Park. Columbia Borough Council authorized the advertising for bids once DCNR approved these documents. Columbia Borough received approval of the General Permit that is being required by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Army Corps of Engineers. Construction began in the fourth quarter of 2009. The construction of the “marina building” that comprises restrooms, elevated pavilion and information areas is dependent upon funding availability at this time.
The Phase I improvements that were completed in 2010 include: replacement and expansion of the current boating access ramp, improved and expanded parking area, canoe/kayak area with parking to the north of the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge (Rt. 462), shoreline stabilization, floating docks, shoreline fishing access, shoreline walkway.
Funding of this project is moving forward through the generous grant funding awarded to the Borough by Lancaster County (Urban Enhancement Funding $425,000), Department of Conservation & Natural Resources $650,000, PA Fish & Boat Commission $250,000 and Department of Environmental Protection $325,000. Additional funding and “in kind services” are being provided by Columbia Borough.
Check out this video of local business using our River Park facilities: