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Group interested in Native American heritage center in Middlesex

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation on the potential sale of an unused division of county land during the finance meeting Wednesday.

The land, a 21-acre parcel located along Army Heritage Drive in Middlesex Township, is currently being eyed by a prospect organization interested in the construction of a Native American heritage center, according to Mary Kuna, business attraction manager of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation. The center would act as a nonprofit organization comprised of a number of organizations with Native American heritage and would occupy roughly six to 10 acres of the parcel.

Kuna said the heritage center would serve a dual purpose of boosting local tourism revenue and honoring specific aspects of county history.

“Ideally what we would to do is create this heritage center to both create an attraction to the area and to pay homage to a number of historical events that have happened in Cumberland County,” Kuna said.

Kuna said the prospect organization is comprised of around 141 different Native American tribes.

As of now, the property would reportedly fall under a special township zoning exemption that would permit the construction of the heritage center, if pursued.

CAEDC CEO Jonathan Bowser said the prospect organization would have to decide if it wanted to purchase the entire 21 acre parcel or only a fraction of it as the plan moves forward.

“I think the cleanest way to do it would be if (the prospect) would take the 21 acres, but that would be up for conversation,” Bowser said.

According to County Director of Planning Kirk Stoner, county officials had started discussing the possibility of selling excess county land back in April 2013. Then in May 2014, CAEDC signed a joint agreement with the county to outline possibilities as far as pursing any end user that might be interested in potentially purchasing county land.

“We wanted to bring the issue back to the board before moving any further to make sure the county is still interested in selling that land,” Stoner said.

Commissioners expressed interest in considering the sale.

“I think (the heritage center) could really be a treat potentially,” said Commissioner Gary Eichelberger.

“(The heritage center) would be unique,” said Commissioner Jim Hertzler. “It would really compliment what we already have established with the Army Heritage Center.”

The matter will be discussed further at a later date.

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