The Summit: A design unlike any other, immersed in natural surroundings | News, Sports, Jobs

IMAGES PROVIDED Artistic renderings show what The Summit might look like upon its completion. The more than $20 million investment seeks to bring Sullivan County a state-of-the-art wellness center.

LAPORTE — For those who haven’t been to the Endless Mountains, the name is what it implies.

For as far as one can see, especially in this borough and nearby Laporte Township, the rolling hills and valleys come into view.

The trouble is, options are limited for safe places for people of all ages and abilities to walk or run in any weather on any day of the year while still enjoying nature, or swim laps in any season — spring, summer, fall and winter — while watching birds soar amongst the tops of trees.

There’s never been a place for which conferences could be held in comfort no matter the season or birthday parties could be held in the dead of winter or heat of summer.

There’s also few places from which one can connect to the broadband Internet or get WiFi, said Mary Baumunk Blondy, a representative of the Loyalsock Foundation, the non-profit organization that is leading the way to seeing The Summit become a real place.

Ideally, The Summit will be constructed in two phases, the first of which comprises the construction of the overall site, the driveway, parking lot, trails, a tree house, and main building.

The facility will invite guests, patrons and visitors in, and they will be in a welcome lounge where broadband internet will be accessible for anyone, not just members.

The design plan indicates a four-lane indoor lap pool with a ramp to an attached but separate warm-water therapy pool, meeting room for birthday parties and educational classes, a walking track that is contained inside yet has views of the surrounding nature outside as seen through the large glass windows, fitness classroom, weight room, exercise and cardio equipment — also pointed toward the woodlands outside — locker rooms with saunas and a child watch area.

A second phase of the project will add a full-size gymnasium and event space kitchen onto the building. All of this is conceptual and will continue to evolve to achieve the overall mission, Blondy noted.

Outdoor parcels

For those choosing to remain outside, a number of clearly marked walking trails will be available to use, inviting and immersing the pedestrian or hiker to become a part of his or her natural surroundings.

“We will have numerous places in which to sit and rest,” Blondy said, offering a personal perspective of how it might be to breathe in mountain air, meditate in the openness, surrounded by the trees, with other summits in the distance. It will be a place of solace to listen to the chirp of birds, or small animals rustling innocently in the patch of woods along the trails.

The Summit truly is the culmination of a dream for a passionate group of individuals who have drive and determination. It’s also the result of benevolent community members donating and selling large parcels of land, Blondy said.

Just two months ago, for example, Loyalsock Foundation finalized the acquisition of 70 acres or the envisioned campus, she said.

Benchmarks are being met and word is getting out, especially with the future access off busy Route 42.

Details on the size of the parcels

The first parcel is 9.6 acres and is identified as the Reibson Parcel. The Foundation purchased the land which is contiguous (connected) to the school district. The sale took place Oct. 27, 2020. It includes the right-of-way that extends from Route 42 to the 10 acres via the Rural Electric Cooperative utility line, which will serve as the future access road/roadway.

Next, two parcels are identified with the Baumunk name — the first, or 9.1 acres was received as a gift of land contiguous and south of the Reibson parcel. A second Baumunk parcel of about 32 acres combined and north of the Reibson parcel is included as a “pledge agreement.”

Loyalsock Foundation received a gift of 13.6 acres of this parcel on June 21, 2022, the subdivision of which was approved by the county Planning Commission. This pledge agreement includes a 100-year lease and the right-of-first refusal on the remaining 18.6 acres, if ever offered for sale.

A fourth parcel making up The Summit property is known as the Light Line Trust Triangle parcel of 2.4 acres. The foundation bought the acreage that is contiguous to Route 42 for the entrance to The Summit on Sept. 28. The subdivision was duly approved.

The fifth and sixth parcels total 18.2 acres. These are the school district parcels, which are located at the southwest corner of the district property the foundation purchased on Sept. 28, 2022. The land purchases have been cleared through the court and planning commission.

Estimated costs

In all, the cost estimate for Phase 1 is $17.8 million. That breakdown is $10.2 million for the building construction costs. Site work adds another $4 million-plus to the estimated cost which adds up to a total cost of $14.2 million for the first phase of construction. The addition of the architect and engineering brings the project to its total estimated cost. A second phase which adds a full-sized gymnasium, 8,000 square feet of space, is expected to add another $4 million to the final estimated cost of construction.

More on the growing need

The foundation commissioned Ballard*King & Associates to conduct a market analysis. The work included a demographics breakdown of the area served and individuals who would visit the facility.

It’s no secret that the median age by Census tract of the residents in the county and nearby region is predominantly 51 to 54 years of age. Likewise, median income ranges were about $49,471 in the primary service area to $65,067 across the state.

The analysis also took into account household budget expenditures, focusing on cost of living and entertainment and recreation costs. It broke down fees for club membership and lessons, etc.

The charts indicated that The Summit would serve well as a regional attraction or destination for people from outside of Sullivan County.

It looked at comparable figures for those visiting nearby state attractions such as Ricketts Glen State Park, World’s End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest.

Other non-profit providers exist such as the Bradford County branch of the YMCA, Eastern Lycoming Branch of the YMCA, Tioga County YMCA located in Mansfield.

Interestingly, the market research indicated a slew of indoor activities that people would like. They included walking, aerobics, basketball, using fitness equipment, pickleball, pilates, running/jogging, swimming, volleyball, weightlifting and yoga.

There continues to be strong growth in the number of people participating in recreation and leisure activities, but due to increasing demand, there’s a shortage in most communities of gymnasiums, lap pools, senior program space, pre-school and youth space, teen-use areas, courts and walking tracks and cardiovascular equipment areas.

This holds especially true for the residents of Sullivan County and the nearby region. For all age groups, from senior citizens to children, and those with special needs and accessibility, The Summit would provide a place to call their own.

Hurdles to overcome

If there are any constraints on the project it is that a small population in the primary service area will require strong use from other market segments. That means attracting people from Williamsport, Towanda and elsewhere to give it a try. The overall population in both the primary and secondary service areas is projected to decline over the next five years. Most users in the secondary service area are closer to a local YMCA .

Meanwhile, the median household income level in both service areas are lower than that of the state and nation, which will impact fees and use.

Conversely, the population is also considerably older, which will reduce potential use as well.

The bottom line is The Summit will not be able to cover its cost of operation by revenues generated from the facility use.

An endowment will be necessary to keep the wellness center sustainable. That is why Blondy and those on the foundation welcome the continued financial support from the community, through private and tax-deductible donations, and from businesses, public and private charity groups and other organizations.

Dream upon a summit

If there is any truth to how Walt Disney dreamed upon a star and made what he did happen, so, too, will those interested in Sullivan County and the region’s wellness with this facility — if they only keep the dream alive.

But to reach that goal or summit is going to take one step at a time and maintain a vision.

Each climb may be steep, just like these Endless Mountains.

For those involved in the project, the mission can finally be accomplished and it will serve multiple generations to come.

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