HERSHEYPARK over the next decade

Recently, a lively debate has erupted over a possible expansion of the monorail and  about expanding the park in the future.  Research on this topic has led me to uncover some public documents about the relocation of Park Boulevard to allow for expansion. First, let’s set the stage.  It should not be a surprise to anyone, but HERSHEYPARK has become quite crowed with rides and now has little room for expansion.  In 2002, HERSHEYPARK bought back the Parkview Golf Course from Hershey Estates and then closed it in 2005.  This lead to much speculation about HERSHEYPARK expanding into this area–but how would they do it with Park Boulevard in the way?

The following image is the current land ownership from the Dauphin County tax records.  The green is owned by the Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company, the yellow by the Hershey Company, and the brown is by the Hershey Estate Golf Course.
Tax Map

As you can see, HERSHEYPARK now has a continuous strip of land that wraps along the south edge of the Giant Center towards Comet’s dogleg. But still–how to expand the park into this area with Park Blvd. in the way? Back in 2007-2009 Derry Township began to explore replacing the bridge on Park Blvd. over Spring Creek because the structure had become deficient. They began planning a 2.3 million dollar new bridge with the existing alignment. The following image is the proposed plan at that time:
2009 Plan

However, in late 2009, something changed. The old plan was withdrawn and a new 21 million dollar plan was proposed that involved relocating the road entirely. The following is a snippet of text from the Harrisburg Area Transit Study (HATS) chairman to Derry Township regrading the project that was obtained on their website: http://www.tcrpc-pa.org/.

The HATS Coordinating Committee took action at its September 4, 2009 meeting to amend the RTP to include the proposed Park Boulevard Realignment and Hershey Access Management project.

The full text can be found here. There are two really interesting topics in the letter: First, the change of plan on the Park Blvd. Realignment, from a simple bridge replacement to a total relocation; second, the public disclosure of the “Hershey Access Management Project”. I was unable to find any more details on the access management project.

In March 2011 the project took a giant leap forward. Derry Township authorized $650,000 for the preliminary engineering on the project.

Resolution #9-2011 – Application for County Aid from Derry Township for Liquid Fuels Funds in the amount of $650,000 for preliminary engineering phase of the Park Boulevard (T-588) Relocation and Bridge DRT-1 Replacement.

This allowed motion enabled HATS to reallocate their funds to the project and, in April 2011, they did just that.
Money Path

You can see the top budget item removes the funds for the bridge only and then the next line reallocates it to the new project, “Park Blvd. Bridge/Roadway”–that now includes the road relocation. The end of the year budget, found here, shows that money is allocated for 2012-2014. This suggests that work will begin in 2012 (likely survey and final engineering) and will be completed in 2014.

All that has been discussed so far does not hint at future HERSHEYPARK expansion. On April 8th, 2011, Brian Emberg of the Herbert, Rowland, and Grubic, Inc engineering firm presented the relocation plan to the HATS technical committee. The full meeting minutes can be found here. I have filed a records request for an actual copy of the presentation, so the following discussion is based solely on the text.

The proposal calls for a “4,000 foot, two lane facility on a new alignment including sidewalks to better handle existing and future traffic.” One of the most striking statements in the minutes is that of a “Public-Private Partnership” to fund the construction. I hypothesize that this is a partnership between the local and state governments and HERSHEYPARK. I support this claim with the following from the meeting minutes: “It will open 30+ acres of land for development. It will boost the tourism industry, which is one of Dauphin County’s largest industries.” Given that 1) Park Blvd borders HERSHEYPARK, 2) the road relocation will create better access for HERSHEYPARK to the old golf course, and 3) the stated purpose is to “boost tourism,” it makes sense that this is the likely partnership. Larger HERSHEYPARK = more tourists = more money for the township. In addition, the property owners are willing to donate land for the new road: “Mr. Emberg said the property owners have tentatively agreed to donate the right-of-way for the new alignment”.

Putting this together, what do we get? The following is my guess; feel free to submit your own!

The red line in the image is the road and it is approximately 4,000 ft as stated. It provides good access to the Hershey Company’s truck lot. It gives the park approximately 30 uninterrupted acres as stated.