Public weighs in on Mount Penn Preserve master plan

LOWER ALSACE TWP., Pa. - The second set of community design meetings for the Mount Penn Preserve master plan was held at the Reading Liederkranz Thursday evening.

Approximately 30 people attended each meeting, held at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and provided their input on the future of the Mount Penn Preserve.

According to Sarah Leeper of Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, there were approximately 30 people at each of the first two meetings, which were held February 25.

Leeper said Thursday evening’s meetings were about presenting those ideas and concepts and getting more input from the public.

Simone Collins Landscape Architecture's Peter Simone, also of Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, led the meeting and explained that the study area covers about 4,000 acres. He said to help organize the ideas, they’ve broken the area down to five zones: Skyline, Gravity Railroad Trail, Antietam, Central Mountain, and Mountain Village.

Simone summarized the information discovered from the first meetings, saying, "The first series of meetings generated more than 450 ideas. There were lots of good thoughts and ideas and a great diversity of opinions."

"Some people wanted more trails," Simone said. "Some people wanted a hotel on the mountain. Some wanted more restaurants. Connections were a big thing; how do we get to the mountain more easily?"

Simone said some of the goals of the plan included low-impact design and regional economic development.

Simone then presented the results of the online survey, which is available online until April 10.  According to Simone, 235 people have taken the survey so far.

The following are some of the questions and the responses that have been received:

  1. In the past 24 months (2 years), has any member of your household participated or been a spectator in any of the following events/activities in the Mount Penn complex? The events that received the most responses were the Duryea Hillclimb, Duryea Downhill, Liederkranz Octoberfest, various running events, and a private event at Stokesay.
  2. If you or a member of your household has not visited the Mount Penn Preserve recently, or if you visit infrequently, what are the reasons that you do not visit? The number one response was "I do not feel safe there."
  3. If you could create or recommend any types of new or improved facilities in the Mount Penn Complex, what facilities would you recommend? The most popular facilities included improved trails and more restrooms.

Then, Simone turned to the audience and asked if the project were to move forward in a unified way, what type of structure would they feel make the most sense.

One person who has been involved in the restoration of the fire tower said that funding is the biggest issue he sees moving forward. Another expressed his concern about the various entities, including municipalities and the county trusting each other and working together.

Simone agreed that this is a common problem, but if they can show the individual entities what they have to gain from working together, that it can work.

People were then asked to look at the list of ideas (that included everything from a zip line to more parking) and place a dot next to the items that were of interest to them.

Leeper said that they will present their recommendations at the next set of meetings, scheduled for Saturday, March 25 at Reading City Hall. Those recommendations will be available to view online, with the final plan being presented at the April 20 meeting at Stokesay Castle.  The public is invited to attend those meetings and encouraged to take the online survey.  For more information, go to

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