“A dream is a wish your heart makes.” — Walt Disney.

If dreams really do come true, then the Shenango Valley area is in good shape. But dreams need help to become reality.

People spoke from the heart recently about their dreams for Shenango Valley communities during a “visioning session” to assemble two comprehensive plans. The plans would be nonbinding guidelines for future development.

One is for Sharon, Farrell, Hermitage and Wheatland, the other for West Middlesex and Shenango Township.

We commend the citizens involved under the guidance of consultants and Mercer County Regional Planning Commission. But we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men …

It seems that everytime we turn around there is another study or another planning session about how to change the face of the Shenango Valley. Years were spent working on consolidation plans, for example, only to have them shot down by the vote of residents in some communities. It was doomed from the start.

So how can the visioning help?

For one, it offers ideas. It’s a start. But community leaders must throw their weight behind them. And it must be a joint effort. Getting officials to agree isn’t easy when they all have their own agendas.

One idea everyone should embrace is making Penn State’s Shenango Valley Campus a four-year college. It would be similar to Behrend Campus in Erie, which made the change from a two-year campus 35 years ago.

Think of the impact of that development. It would inspire regrowth in Sharon. It would spark businesses and housing and help turn around the downtown area. It could provide impetus for development of the Shenango River banks that would benefit all.

But how do you make it happen? Municipal leaders need to use their influence in any way possible. Work with state legislators to push for a change. Meet with Penn State officials to see what it would take.

Another idea brought out at the session — which we have offered before on this page — is consolidation of school districts. But people are reluctant to change, so unless you can sell it to the populace, or persuade state officials to make such a move mandatory, it’s a pipedream. People talked of our local image and improving it. Citizens pointed out the assets of our community and how we could capitalize on them.

These meetings are feel-good sessions but they can serve a purpose. In fact, there will be more in coming months and we encourage everyone’s participation. But once these comprehensive plans are assembled, we can only hope that our community leaders implement them. In fact, we have a dream. We dream that, for once, a comprehensive plan actually is supported enthusiastically by our municipal leaders and brought to fruition.

We wish that from the heart!

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