The Crawford County Commissioners have an important decision to make and they are asking the public for some help.     The commissioners must decide whether to keep paying the expenses to operate Woodcock Lake Park, or perhaps charge a user fee.

Crawford County has been leasing Woodcock Lake Park from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the corps build the nearby Woodcock Dam for flood control in the mid-1970s.  The county doesn't pay the federal government any rent, but it does have to pay all the expenses for the park.


Woodcock Lake Park is an outdoor haven located between Meadville and Saegertown.  People come for recreation, mostly in the warm weather months.  It's popular for camping, boating, picnics, and walking on trails. People love it, but lately it's costing Crawford County, on average, $65,000 a year to operate.


"Yearly, the expenses to run the park is more than what the revenue has generated for the camping area. The only revenue there is the campgrounds and the picnic shelters,” says Francis Weiderspahn, County Commissioner.

Weiderspahn says this is the year Crawford County can opt out of its lease with the Army Corps of Engineers.   He says the commissioners are considering it because the county budget is tight.  Property taxes were raised by 2.75 mills last year.

The commissioners are also thinking about alternative ideas, such as imposing a user fee for park visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


"Would that be enough to offset 65,000 maybe? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know that yet, but these are the things we're looking at,” Weiderspahn said.

Weiderspahn has been reaching out on social media to gauge the public's response to a possible user fee of two dollars per car and five dollars for a vehicle with a boat.  Most people say they would pay it. Susan Callahan, of Meadville, visits the park just about every day.


“I think they should charge a user fee and do some changes around here,” she said.


Bev Brown spent part of her day Tuesday walking on trails inside the park.


"I wouldn't mind like a buck a car.  You know, coming in and out. It's not that much and if it helps out to keep the park open, I'm all for it,” she said.


It is a dilemma. The commissioners could just keep paying the $65,000 a year, but that cost goes up with needed roadway repairs and unexpected expenses. The commissioners could also opt out of the lease, but then, the future of the park would be uncertain.


Those who have opinions on what the commissioners should do can make comments on or on the Erie News Now Facebook page.  The commissioners will be reading them.