AMID THE accusations flying back and forth at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority regarding how many senior citizens did or did not ride the buses, there is still some healthy news.
From June through August the authority will run buses on weekdays and Saturdays from Wilkes-Barre with stops on the West Side taking passengers to Frances Slocum State Park in Kingston Township.
For $3 round-trip — free for seniors older than 65 and kids shorter than 42 inches — it’s a chance to get to a nearby state park with more than 1,000 acres and plenty of woods, open fields, a lake for fishing, a swimming pool, boat rentals and diverse hiking paths. There are hikes to fill several days. Frances Slocum and Lakeshore trails skirt the shore on the ridge that juts out into the lake while the more secluded Macanaquah and Larch Tree trails lead into deep, cool woods. Frances Slocum also has four miles of mountain bike trails and plenty of paved roads for comfort bikes. The LCTA buses can transport bikes.
With all that, the park will be a great respite for people looking for a cool escape.
The park area has a legacy of escape. Refugees from the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 converted the park to a temporary community for 280 families housed in trailers. And the park is named for the girl kidnapped in 1778 by Delaware Indians near the family homestead on what is now North Street in Wilkes-Barre. Legend has it that the Native Americans hid with the young girl near a rock outcrop in the park. Frances never came back but the outcrop is still there, a short walk from the boat concession area.
The bus run is part of an initiative between the LCTA, the Wilkes-Barre YMCA and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as an effort to lift Luzerne County from its poor general-health ratings.
According to a nationwide study Luzerne holds 57th place out of 67 counties of the state when ranked for healthiness. Access to easy, inexpensive outdoor recreation could help, according to the project organizers who say nearly 25 percent of Wilkes-Barre households don’t have a car.
The Frances Slocum run will depart from the Intermodal Center Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m., making stops in several West Side communities before arriving at the park. The return bus will leave the park at 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information call 288-9356 or visit www.lctabus.com.
Of course, if the bus doesn’t fit your schedule, there’s always the option of taking a walk in your own neighborhood near home. You may not have the cool forest but you’ll have a better chance to meet your neighbors and get to know your community. That’s healthy, too.