NANTICOKE — When the statewide trout season opens on April 13, so will Moon Lake Park.
That’s when the county-owned facility will open for seven days a week until Oct. 31, and there is hope that the park can be opened every day year-round, according to County Engineer Joe Gibbons.
Gibbons outlined his plans for the park Thursday during a public forum on fishing and boating issues hosted by state Rep. Gerald Mullery’s office at Luzerne County Community College. Along with Gibbons, officials with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Mullery’s staff fielded questions on issues ranging from smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River to trout fishing.
But most of the questions centered on Moon Lake and what can be done to keep the park open all year. Gibbons said he has two short-term goals for the park: obtain a grant from the state to construct a new boat launch, and find a way to keep the park open seven days a week all year.
“That’s a big challenge, but there’s some real momentum amongst the public and our elected officials,” he said. “The idea is to maximize the passive uses of the park and find a way this year to keep it open seven days a week.”
Staffing is a major obstacle, and Gibbons said an agreement with a private operator to help with staffing issues is a long-range goal. The first step, he said, is making the park sustainable so it doesn’t have a negative impact on the county budget.
Gibbons was asked if bringing back the boat rentals was a possibility for the park this year. He said boat rentals are a long-term goal under the park’s master plan, but one that needs staffing to make it a reality.
Don Casterline of Hanover Township suggested partnering with sportsmen’s clubs and civic groups as a way to address staffing issues. Gibbons said the idea is a possibility and acknowledged there are groups willing to volunteer their time to help out.
“That might be a way to help Moon Lake increase its hours of operations,” he said.
Phil Russo, a member of the county’s recreation advisory board, agreed that staffing and money are the two obstacles that need to be met to keep the park open. He also asked about the possibility of a partnership with state agencies to aid the situation.
Gibbons said the county has a great relationship with the commission and its trout stocking program for the lake, and the two sides are in discussions to increase the law enforcement presence in and around the park.
“That way, when it’s open we have eyes on the public interest,” he said. “Moon Lake is near and dear to all of us and we try to find a solution every day.
“We have reasons to be optimistic, such as the grant for a boat launch. That’s a great way to reinvest in Moon Lake Park because right now the focus of the park is the lake itself.”