NANTICOKE — When it comes to Moon Lake Park, Rick Morelli admits the county can’t do the facility justice.
With limited funds and a glut of repairs needed, Luzerne County doesn’t have the financial resources to make the park a thriving recreational amenity, said Morelli, who is chairman of County Council.
But he knows someone who can.
Morelli said he wants to arrange a meeting with state legislators to discuss the possibility of handing the park over to the state or working in conjunction with the county to make improvements. Such a move could get the park up and running again as well as free up money in the county budget that can be directed elsewhere, Morelli said.
“It’s an option worth exploring. We’re clearly not putting into the park the way we did years ago,” he said. “In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if it’s a county or state park, as long as it’s maintained and serves as a safe recreational facility for the public.”
The 650-acre, county-owned park in Plymouth Township has been open for passive activities — including fishing, biking and hiking — that don’t require intensive county oversight. The park’s in-ground swimming pool and camping sites have been out of commission for several years.
County officials have estimated millions of dollars would be needed to cover Moon Lake infrastructure work, including repairs to the water and sewage treatment systems.
Moon Lake Park was discussed at length this week at a forum state Rep. Gerald Mullery arranged with officials from the county Recreational Facilities Advisory Board and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Phil Russo, chairman of the county board, spoke at length about the many repairs the park needs and his hope to have it open again full-time and offering all the amenities it did before.
Russo said he understands the county’s financial position makes it difficult, if not impossible, to properly maintain the park. And while he’d like to see the facility remain county-owned, he would be in favor of having the state take it over.
The issue has been discussed before between state legislators and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. State Sen. John Yudichak said he had conversations with fellow state Sen. Lisa Baker, DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti and County Council about the park.
Yudichak said he also sent a letter to the county regarding the Marcellus Legacy Funds the county received in the amount of $240,000 to be used for recreation, but has not heard back.
“As a resident of Plymouth Township, it saddens me to see that Moon Lake has fallen into the state it’s in,” Yudichak said. “We are more than willing to engage in dialogue with county council about the park. This could be a great opportunity for county council and the state to work together.”
Still, Yudichak cautioned there are many legal issues to resolve before the state could take over the park. But overcoming those issues for the betterment of the park is something Yudichak said he’s willing to tackle. The next step, he said, is for the county and state to get together and come up with a plan.
“I’m always going to have hope that we can work through the politics and fiscal challenges to restore Moon Lake Park to its glory,” Yudichak said. “It’s just a matter of determination.”