Clarion County residents had an opportunity Monday night (July 12) to help plan for the county's future.

Representatives from Herbert, Rowland and Grubic of Cranberry Township conducted a meeting to gather input for an update to the county's comprehensive plan.

In Pennsylvania, counties are required to prepare a comprehensive plan by Act 247, the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code also sets forth a minimum standard for a comprehensive plan.

The plan must address land use, housing, community facilities, public utilities and transportation.

The plan can also address energy conservation, historic preservation, and capital improvement budgeting.

Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said the county has been working on the new plan for the past several months.

"This is your wish list," Tharan told visitors. "Use your imagination."

Tharan noted the site of the meeting, Clarion County Park in Paint Township, was the result of the 2004 comprehensive plan.

"The current comprehensive plan was completed back in 2004 and should have been updated by now," explained Clarion County Commissioner Ed Heasley

Heasley said the plan should be updated every 10 years.

Heasley said the county received a $30,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The total cost of the plan is $62,700. The county's share will be in-kind services.

"We are updating the plan not only because it is out of date but so it can be used as a working tool to guide the future of Clarion County by addressing today's needs," said Heasley.

He said it is important that the plan be "unique" to the county and that it "identifies techniques and strategies" to meet the goals and objectives of the plan.

Clarion County Commissioner Wayne Brosius said it is important for municipalities to have their plans included so they might access funding sources.

"This plan should be a road map," said Clarion County Planner Kristi Amato. "I hope we can look back in 10 years and check off things we have accomplished."

Laura Ludwig, a community planner with HRG, and Christina Sarson, a landscape architect with HRG, have met with numerous people and traveled across the county several times.

Ludwig said there are many unique qualities in Clarion County including the two rivers, the Clarion and Allegheny but that is not enough.

Ludwig said there is a "stigma" with being from Clarion.

"Many young people feel the need to move away to a larger area," she said.

Ludwig said that in their preliminary visits, people identified several needs including economic development, increase in tourism and the need to "attract and retain visitors and residents of all ages."

Ludwig added, "This is an open book. What goes into it depends on you."

Sarson set up a series of stations that allowed people to identify needs through a sticker system. The results will be reviewed and incorporated into the plan.

Ludwig said there will be additional meetings. She invited people who were not able to attend the meeting on Monday and wanted to have input into the plan to contact the county planning office.

Heasley estimated the plan should be completed by the end of the year.

According to its website, HRG, founded in 1962, is an employee-owned, full-service civil engineering and related services firm that providesquality, cost-effective design solutions to public and private sector clients.

HRG offers a full complement of technical expertise and engineering servicesincluding municipal, water and wastewater, land development, transportation, water resources, geographic information systems (GIS), survey, environmental, construction phase, and financial services.