At first, North Coventry’s parks along the Schuylkill River, just across the Hanover Street Bridge from Pottstown, presented a bit of a challenge. But it wasn’t due to any particular feature of the parks. It was their names. The names in the Penn State study didn’t seem to match up with what I could find online and there were no signs at the actual locations. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with Andy Paravis, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and get to the bottom of things. We met at the Township building this past Friday, where I also met Jay Kline, chairman of the planning commission. They had several maps of the township’s parks and open space, and before the morning was over, I had learned a whole lot more about North Coventry’s open space accomplishments and some of the potential going forward. I’ll fit some of it into this post and more in the next one on Coventry Woods.
Sometime in the past few years, North Coventry grouped together several parcels in the South Pottstown area and now refer to them collectively as “Riverside Park.” These include: the boat ramp and parking areas near the intersection of Penn Street and E. Schuylkill Avenue; the Penn Street courts (basketball & tennis, not in use), and the horseshoe pits in a green space on E. Schuylkill Avenue at the intersection with Hanover Street. (The nearby Wampler Complex has four baseball fields which are owned by the Coventry Little League.)The Riverside Park designation also includes the ~1.4 acre park on River Road between S. York Street and Coyne Alley; this parcel has a playground, shade trees, picnic table and open space.
Further down River Road, at the bend in the road, you will come upon River Bend Park. This facility is home to the North Coventry Athletic Fields, and each of its three fields is dedicated to the memory of someone who contributed to the life of the Township: William R. Deegan, Sr., James R. Batdorf and Vernon Anderson. Near Batdorf Field there is a small pavilion with picnic tables and a swing set.
There is a noticeable difference in the quality of equipment between Kenilworth Park and the facilities that make up Riverside Park. Mr. Paravis confirmed that it’s a matter of money. Funds available for acquisition of properties are not allowed to be used for general stewardship, leaving some towns unable to maintain all of their parks to the same standards. I asked if there were any plans for the asphalt on Penn Street, where the tennis courts used to be and where there is still one basketball hoop.
“We’re going to have to re-consider those areas,” said Mr. Kline. “No one was really using the tennis courts.”
This was also the case at Pottstown’s Polluck Park, and I wondered if this was due to the “professionalization” of tennis for young children or due to more people playing year-round at indoor facilities. I may take some heat from Pottstown folks for thinking out loud that a reconfigured parking lot in the boat ramp area of North Coventry might be just the place for a kayak and canoe concession to attract more visitors to the river. Those visitors are going to be hungry when they get out of the water, and Pottstown should be the place they head for refreshments… which brings me to a subject that is close to Mr. Paravis’ heart: regional planning, in general, and regional recreation planning, in particular.
There is a really interesting study on my Pottstown 101 reading list about the ways in which Pottstown and North Coventry could coordinate the development of their riverfront recreational resources. It’s called Reconnections: “Reconnecting the people of North Coventry Township and Pottstown Borough with each other and their Schuylkill River Heritage.”
I took a ride with my North Coventry guides to visit Coventry Woods, which I’ll talk about tomorrow. On the way back, we detoured over to River Bend Park, where – if you get close to the river’s edge – you can see an old railroad trestle that crosses the river. The Reconnections study has a nice rendering (on page 40) of what that might look like as a pedestrian bridge that could allow people to cross from North Coventry and end up in Pottstown’s Riverfront Park, basically creating, for hikers and bikers, a loop with the Hanover Street and a larger loop with the Keim Street and Kenilworth bridges.
The study also presents some creative, upscale ideas for improving the gateway appearance and the pedestrian experience on the Hanover Street Bridge… for all those residents and visitors trying to enjoy the best that both sides of the river have to offer. With this kind of teamwork, I can easily envision a more vibrant waterfront for both Pottstown and North Coventry.
For those who are interested to learn more, I highly recommend the Reconnections study.
Location #1: E. Schuylkill Ave. and Penn St., Pottstown, PA 19465
Location #2: River Road & S. York Street, Pottstown, PA 19465
Size: ~2.5 acres total
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Location #1 – Boat ramp, dock, quoits, benches. Basketball court and two tennis courts are no longer in service. Location #2 – River Road area offers playground, shady seating area and large multi-purpose open space. Two volleyball courts are no longer in service.
Activities and tips: On the Sunday I visited, several people were putting their boats in. Isn’t it time to seriously consider getting a boat of your own?
Hours: 7 am to sunset.
RIVERBEND PARK & ANDERSON FIELD
Location: River Road, Pottstown, PA 19465
Size: ~9.5 acres total
Suitability: Youth involved in North Coventry baseball, softball and soccer leagues.
Facilities: Baseball/soccer fields, river views, benches, tables in grove, pavilion, swings.
Activities and tips: Looks like there used to be a trail along the river’s edge, beyond the ball fields, but it’s mostly overgrown now.
Hours: 7 am to sunset.