Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority (LARA) is a regional recreation authority serving Lewisburg Borough and East Buffalo Township in Union County. With assistance from the Keystone Fund, LARA was developed through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Peer to Peer and Circuit Rider Program. This program entailed hiring a consultant to work with municipalities to form an inter-municipal cooperative agreement to hire a professional recreation director. In 2000, LARA hired its first executive director, Greg Weitzel.
With Weitzel’s leadership and the support of a very effective board, LARA formed a partnership with Playworld Systems, a leading manufacturer of playground and recreational equipment based in Lewisburg. In 2004, Playworld approached LARA to discuss renovating the 22-acre Lewisburg Area Recreation Park. At that time, Playworld Systems was introducing new product lines and was looking for a site to showcase a variety of their products. Playworld Systems offered to donate approximately $800,000 worth of equipment and other important funds to help repair roofs and correct drainage problems at the park. In return, Playworld Systems requested that LARA secure other funding to complete the approximately $2.5 million renovation of the park using the donation as a match, then agree to maintain the park once it was completed.
In 2005, LARA applied to DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnership Initiative for $500,000 and received the money through the Keystone Fund. Phases I and II were quickly completed; they included the active playground areas for ages two to five and five to 12, a climbing wall, skatepark facility, and the Life Trail. Phase III entailed the development of a passive area at the west end of the park, as well as stream bank restoration on Buffalo Run, drainage remediation, landscaping, parking lot development, and extension of the pedestrian trail. A $300,000 Keystone Fund grant was awarded for this phase of the project.
“The Township has experienced a tremendous amount of increased activity in the use of the Lewisburg Area Park,” said Hank Baylor, East Buffalo Township supervisor. “We have a fair amount of seniors as residents of the Township, and with the addition of the Life Trail, our residents have discovered that they can get out and enjoy the fresh air and do some light exercise at the same time. The community has also developed little groups to meet and exercise together. The skate park is another unbelievable addition to the park. Skaters come to the parks from as far as Allentown and State College to use the facility, and although they may only purchase a Coke and a sub at nearby fast food restaurants, they are spending money, and what we consider new revenue to the area.”