On a hill in Lower Pottsgrove Township, you can practically hear the rocks sing. Well, you’d have to have a hammer with you. Then, if you tap the large boulders in Ringing Rocks Park, they actually will ring.
According to the website of the Ringing Hill Fire Company, which owns the property where the rocks are located, “Over the years the main attraction was the group of rocks, but by the late 1800’s the people saw the area developed into a real park, and in the summer of 1895 the Park was officially opened. Throngs came to the Park walking, by horse and wagon, bicycle, and the trolley car. Picnics were held during the summers, various associations met here, and on some evenings attendance at a lecture was of interest to adults.”
Today, this part of Ringing Hill is home to the fire company, two pavilions that are available for rental, and an indoor roller skating rink. Anyone who’s grown up in the Pottstown area knows the rink, where the Hokey-Pokey is still going strong. On a recent gorgeous Saturday in October, both pavilions were in use – one for a family birthday party, another for a very large crowd. For information on rentals, go to the Ringing Hills Fire Co. website; rental information can be found here. The Fire Company also runs Saturday Night Bingo and Ladies Bingo once a month.
After climbing around on the rocks a bit, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid, I made a quick stop at the roller rink. I’d been there a few years ago for a nephew’s birthday party, and it was fun all over again to see how little it has changed. By then, I was anxious to get to the Nature Park, another place that I had been to many times over the years.
If you’re driving on Keim Street from Pottstown, look for a stone wall on your left. That’s when you’re getting near the park. Then you will see a pond on your right, signs for Ringing Rocks Park on your right, and a lovely carved sign for Shaner’s Grove and some parking for a few cars. The sign was made by Girl Scout Troop # 7354 just this year. I parked there and then walked back on Keim to the entrance to the Lower Nature Park.
With the pond on your right, cross the charming stone bridge and go straight ahead until you see the trailhead sign. Choose your level of difficulty: red for difficult, yellow for moderate and blue for easy, and you’re on your way. For those of you who love to hike, this is a wonderful spot to really feel like you’re getting away from it all. After spending the past few weeks visiting a lot of playgrounds in Pottstown, the contrast is pretty remarkable. When I enter a heavily wooded area, I really feel a kind of hush around me and then I start to hear the sounds of nature: a bird call, the rustle of squirrel in the leaves, or just the wind through the leaves.
In the Penn State study that was commissioned by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation, and that inspired this series, it says that 78% of the Pottstown residents surveyed said that they visit parks within their own municipality, while just 22% of residents travel to other towns for outdoor activity. This is the reverse of just about every other town (with Amity at 53%). Given the amount of concrete and developed areas in Pottstown, and the predominance of neighborhood mini-parks to serve recreational needs, I’m guessing that adults and children (especially children) don’t get the chance to really be immersed in nature and experience the feeling I got in Ringing Rocks Park.
Growing up in the North End, I remember catching guppies and playing in Sprogels Run, off Buchert Road and across Charlotte Street from the North End shopping center. We used to fish in a pond at Brookside Country Club, too. Those opportunities for kids to interact with nature on their own don’t seem to exist any longer. I also have fond memories of a couple of dads, who lived in the Brookside area, (Bill Brennan and the late Red Braunsberg), piling all of us into their cars and taking us to French Creek or other parks, where we’d hike for a couple hours and then cook hot dogs on a grill. (Yeah, we didn’t use seat belts, and hot dogs aren’t the healthiest snack, but we got our exercise!)
I know there’s always a shortage of money, but it would be so great if we could figure out a way to regularly and safely get the children of Pottstown first to Riverfront Park and then outside of town to be immersed for a few hours in a place where you can’t hear or see anything but the natural world. Dave Kraybill, Executive Director of the Health & Wellness Foundation just recommended Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Richard Louv to me. I’m going to pick it up and see if I can read it before we’re done with this series, so I can check in and let you know what I’ve learned.
RINGING ROCKS UPPER PARK and LOWER NATURE PARK
Location: Enter the Upper Park from Route 663 on the west or from N. Keim Street on the east. Use the Ringing Hill Fire Company’s address to find it with a GPS: 815 White Pine Lane, Pottstown PA 19464. Enter the Lower Nature Park at 1800 N. Keim Street at the intersection with Yerger Road.
Size: 38.4 acres
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Unpaved trails, wooded areas, rock outcroppings, pond, stream, pavilions and roller skating rink, plenty of parking.
Activities and Tips: The Ringing Hills Fire Co. owns and manages the Upper Park, which includes the pavilions and skating rink. Lower Pottstgrove Township owns the Lower Nature Park with the hiking trails. Try to remember to bring a hammer and give the ringing rocks a try!
Hours: Dawn until dusk, except for pavilion or skating rink rentals
Location: 1900 N. Keim Street at the intersection with Yerger Road, Pottstown, PA 19464
Size: 2.8 acres
Suitability: Children with supervision and adults.
Facilities: Wooded areas, rock outcroppings
Activities and Tips: Site of future parking for Ringing Rocks Nature Park.
Hours: Dawn until dusk.
FOR RENTALS, CONTACT RINGING HILL FIRE COMPANY
815 White Pine Lane
Pottstown, PA 19464
Pavilion Rental: 610-970-0157
Lower Pottsgrove Township
2199 Buchert Road
Pottstown, PA 19464
Ph: (610) 323-0436
Fax: (610) 323-3824
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. M-F