A $79,000 state grant has been awarded to help pay for a planned $158,000 upgrade to Sunfish Pond County Park in Leroy Township, state and county officials announced on Tuesday.

The upgrade will include the construction of a boat dock, a boardwalk and observation area, a pavilion, pedestrian walkways, a playground area, a parking area and other features, according to a press release that state Sen. Gene Yaw issued on Tuesday.

Bradford County was also awarded a $10,000 state grant to hire a consultant - a park professional with management experience - to work the Bradford County Parks Committee on various projects, said Bradford County Planning Director Ray Stolinas, who is a member of the Parks Committee.

"We're happy to hear that these grants have been approved," Stolinas said.

The grants are among the seven Community Conservation Partnership Program grants that were awarded in the 23rd Senatorial District, the release said.

The county will need to match the $79,000 grant with an equal amount of funds, Stolinas said.

The new facilities at Sunfish Pond will be constructed at the northern end of the park, which covers 79 acres on Barclay Mountain, Bradford County Parks Committee member Tony Liguori has said.

The pavilion will accommodate people picnicking and could serve as an outdoor classroom.

The planned boardwalk will wind through a 300-foot section of wetlands along Sunfish Pond and give the public an opportunity to see wildlife up close, such as birds that use the pond, fish, amphibians and reptiles, Liguori has said.

Signage will be installed in the park that will explain the ecological benefits of wetlands, he said. As part of the project, a wetlands area at the park will be expanded.

As part of the upgrade, there will be also be signs erected in the park that will explain the cultural and historical significance of the area.

While the park has a boat launch for 35-acre Sunfish Pond, it does not have a boat dock along the shore where people can moor rowboats and other kinds of non-motorized boats, Liguori said. The dock that will be created as part of the $158,000 upgrade will "enhance the boating experience" for the public and would help protect against erosion of the shoreline that occurs when people drag boats ashore, he said.

As part of the upgrade, walking paths will be created that will link the facilities at the northern end of the park to other existing pathways, to assist people in walking to other areas of the park, he said.

Handicapped parking and pathways with a surface that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be created at the northern end of the park to accommodate people with mobility issues, such as people in wheelchairs or people who use walkers, he said.

The components of the $158,000 upgrade were recommended by the Bradford County Parks Committee and were also recommended by the master plan for the county's three county parks, which was completed last year, said Liguori.

Liguori has said that the construction of the upgrade is expected to get under way in 2013 and be completed in 2013 or 2014.

"I am pleased that these investments have been made in my senatorial district," Yaw said. "This funding will assist with the completion of park and other land and water conservation projects. Even more importantly, these dollars will generate additional revenues through increased economic, tourism and recreational activities in the Northern Tier."

The consultant will, among other things, develop a long-term maintenance and operations plan for Bradford County's county parks and develop an organizational structure for staff and volunteers for a county recreation and parks department.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.