State Sen. John Yudichak and state Rep. Gerald Mullery have reached out to several state agencies and Luzerne County to bring the two sides together to discuss options to keep the county-owned Moon Lake Park open.
Beginning this week, the county closed the Plymouth Township park on weekdays due to cuts in the county's security department. The park will be open Saturday and Sunday only, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and Mullery, D-Newport Township, would like to see the park open during the week and many of the services that it once offered brought back. Considering the financial constraints faced by the county, state involvement may be crucial to the park's survival, they said.
The county and several state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources along with the House Game and Fisheries Committee and Governor's Office, have been contacted by the legislators over the last few days.
"We're going to bring together all of the parties that can add to the discussion of keeping it a public park and expanding the hours," Yudichak said. "That's our goal for the short-term. There needs to be a strong partnership with the county and state."
Mullery said he began reaching out to state agencies after several constituents raised concerns about the park during a public forum he held last week with the Fish and Boat Commission.
Talks between the county and state would be a starting point for finding a way to keep the park open, Mullery said.
"Moon Lake is a source of very affordable recreation for families," he said. "We reached out because something needs to be done immediately considering trout season opens in April and then you have Memorial Day weekend, which are two busy times for the park."
Luzerne County security chief John Robshaw said his department will figure out a way to ensure the park's gates are opened and closed daily by the time trout season opens on April 14.
Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton said he remains open to any alternative strategies to keep the park operating without additional county funding.
Prior county commissioners have said they unsuccessfully requested a state takeover of the facility.
Possible alternatives include having state agencies manage certain aspects of the park. Kingston resident Norm Gavlick, who is a commissioner with the PFBC, suggested the possibility of his agency managing the lake and the land around it for fishing and boating.
"It could be a way for the county to take that part of the park and not have to worry about it," Gavlick said, adding the agency already manages a handful of lakes in the county. "If there's interest with the county we can certainly discuss the possibilities. I think it has potential."
Wilkes-Barre resident Jay Delaney, who represents the Northeast Region on the PGC's board, was also interested in the possibility of enrolling some of the park property in the agency's public access program.
The PGC currently manages numerous properties throughout the state that are publicly or privately owned, including Earth Conservancy property in Luzerne County and Beltzville State Park in Carbon County, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"This has the potential for a very good partnership, and I support the concept," Delaney said. "It can work, but it always takes a facilitator to bring these things together."
Yudichak and Mullery said they will continue to work to bring both sides to the table. Selling or allowing a private entity to operate the park aren't options that Yudichak favors.
"It concerns me when I hear outright sale or privatization," he said. "We've had good preliminary discussions with DCNR, and these state agencies certainly have a wealth of experience in running these operations. That's why I want their input."