Opposition to amphitheater plan must be resolved
Saturday, January 11, 2003
The Great Meadows Amphitheater, for decades largely dormant and unused, was a symbol of inaction by Fayette County’s elected leaders. It would be a shame if efforts to reverse that trend were thwarted.
Yet, it appears that is what is happening now that the county has found someone willing to invest in the amphitheater site to create what is hoped to be a major tourist attraction.
Fayette Films LLC is seeking a five-year lease to use the Great Meadows site, located off Route 40 in Wharton Township. The company wants to create a motion picture studio at the site. However, the project has been met with opposition from groups who feel it would detract from what is already one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions: Fort Necessity National Battlefield.
Fort Necessity, site of the first battle in the French and Indian War, is located on property adjacent to Great Meadows. Officials from Fort Necessity, and groups such as the Sierra Club, Preservation Pennsylvania and Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin Alliance are concerned there is not an adequate buffer between the amphitheater and acreage around Fort Necessity. They claim the scenic beauty surrounding the fort would be jeopardized by a large new development at the amphitheater and the crowds that will flock there.
We can sympathize with supporters of Fort Necessity and share their concerns. The battlefield is among the most historically significant attractions, not only in Fayette County, but in all of Pennsylvania. It is already an established tourist attraction and should not be compromised for the possibility that another attraction may draw more visitors to the area.
On the other hand, we know that the Great Meadows’ site has gone unused for far too long. The buildings there have fallen into disrepair, at great cost to the county, and the land, among the most pristine in the county, could and should be used for a better purpose. The property is doing nothing for the county’s finances, because it is off the tax rolls. Having the land bought and developed is something for which the county should strive.
Fayette County commissioners, while right pursuing suitors who would develop the Great Meadows site, must do so with the protection, preservation and well-being of existing resources (including Fort Necessity) in mind. For example, an adequate buffer area between the sites is imperative and should be part of any development plans.
We urge commissioners and representatives of Fort Necessity to come to an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved. Plans to develop the Great Meadows site should not be terminated. The potential for the amphitheater has gone unmet far too long already.