Logan to rezone college woods

Penn State Altoona wants to enhance its environmental area

The Logan Township supervisors on Thursday agreed to rezone the 39-acre Penn State Seminar Forest off Juniata Gap Road, across from the Ivyside campus, from residential to institutional, to help the college obtain grants so it can use the ground to its full potential.

Funding agencies, especially the state, would require the site “to be zoned properly” before allocating money, said Andrew Mack, interim associate dean for research.

The college wants to put together a master plan for the hilly site, where there are already trails, a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond and where coursework and research activities take place, Mack said.

The college wants to “formalize” its intentions, determine how best to use the land to enhance its environmental program, create an extension-style forestry outreach for small landowners, make the tract available to pre-college students and other residents of the area, provide handicap access and generally create an “asset for the community,” according to Mack.

“There’s a niche to be filled,” Mack said of the tract, which is southwest of the intersection of Juniata Gap Road and Beckers Lane, rising steeply from the roadways. “There’s a population here that I think would be served by this.”

The change will require a zoning ordinance amendment, according to Supervisor Joe Metzgar.

Supervisor Ed Frontino asked for assurances that the college would follow through on its plans and not ultimately take advantage of the zoning change.

He wouldn’t want to see housing there, he indicated.

While he imputed no ill intentions to the college, “plans change,” he said.

The granting agencies should take care of Frontino’s concern, said Planning Director Cassandra Schmick, explaining that, while the township can’t make zoning conditional, but the state can make grants conditional.

“They’ll put a deed restriction” on the money, Schmick said. “That would be a good thing.”

The ground is not practical for classrooms or housing anyway, according to Mack.

The college has plans for another dormitory, but those plans call for the dorm to be located next to existing dorms, Mack said.

To put dorms in the forest area would “defy the vision for the campus,” he said.

Moreover, the college wants to keep the steep and rocky tract “wild” — as the campus has plenty of lawns and level ground elsewhere, Mack said.

“It sounds like a neat project,” Frontino said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.