Wishing all the moms a Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Spring to everyone! Be sure to set aside some time to get outdoors with your loved ones today or for some quiet time yourself. For information about parks and recreation in the region, check out our Parks & Rec Series, sponsored by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. For more tips on healthy living, visit them online at www.missionhealthyliving.org.
For those who have been following the development of Pottstown’s Heritage Action Plan or HAP, it’s time to rank the various projects and strategies that have surfaced. These rankings will determine the initial priorities for funding and completion.
To bring everyone up to speed… With funding from the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, Tom Carroll and I have been leading a cross-section of the community through a Heritage Action planning process on behalf of the Borough. The purpose is to produce a plan with a vision and marketing strategy around our heritage resources – arts, culture, history and recreation – so that we can entice hikers and bikers off the Schuylkill River Trail and into the downtown. We have identified our resources and ranked them, and are now at the point of prioritizing projects and strategies for the $25,000 we hope to receive in implementation funding from the SRHA in the coming months.
Anyone can be a participating partner! We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who care about the revitalization of Pottstown’s downtown. Here’s how to participate in the ranking:
Attached is a TRAIL TOWN COMPONENT RANKING spreadsheet. If you have a few minutes over the next few days, please follow the instructions below and return your rankings by next Wednesday, May 11th to ptownHAP@gmail.com.
1. Click on the link above to open the file.
2. Rename file, adding your name, e.g. “Repkotrailtowncomponentranking.xlsx”
3. Rank each component on a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being extremely important to 10, not important.
4. In the suggested location column, add a suggested location if you are so inclined; i.e. “Bike Lane Striping” Suggestion: “Add bike lanes to Evans and Franklin Streets; connecting the North End to the Downtown”
5. Return the completed ranking form as an attachment in .xlsx or .xls (EXCEL) format by Wednesday, May 11th to ptownHAP@gmail.com.
Thank you in advance for your input and ideas!
If you want to learn more, you can find previous blog posts and discussions here:
https://positivelyptown.com/category/trail-towns-tours/ or check out Pottstown Heritage Action Plan on Facebook.
I took the plunge this morning, along with about 120 other more daring Polar Bears at Pottstown’s 4th Annual Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by the Parks & Rec Department and organized by Bill & Sue Krause. Hundreds watched from the banks of the Schuylkill in Riverfront Park. Here’s a link to The Mercury’s early coverage.
I only went about thigh-deep. My feet went numb within about 10 seconds. Yes, I wore a wetsuit. With the practically balmy air temp – in the 40s – the suit was more useful as a barrier against the Schuylkill River slop that got stirred up and squished between my toes. The smell coming out of the river rivaled that of a failing septic field. Yes, it was a uniquely charming outdoor experience.
In a surprise appearance by my younger sister and her sons, I was accompanied in the river by my brave 13-year-old nephew, Patrick, who went in a lot deeper. Thanks, you guys!! The bonfire steamed everyone dry, people continued with the tree toss, hot dogs & sauerkraut and hot chocolate warmed people up, and there were some lucky winners of a community card game. This was one more community event that drew hundreds from all around the region – an awesome start to 2011!
(If I ever figure out how to upload the video shot by my other nephew, I’ll let you know :-))
East Vincent’s Community Park on the Ridge has got every imaginable amenity for active family members of all ages. From the moment you turn off Ridge Road and into the driveway adjacent to the municipal building, you will be impressed at the landscape that unfolds before you. The park slopes downward from the playground, tot lots and pavilion, which are at the highest point. From there I took a path that led toward a small bridge. On the way, I passed a meadow and informative marker.
There are markers throughout the park that explain various ecosystems and notable environmental characteristics, such as riparian wetlands and hedgerows. It’s clear that whoever planned this park wanted to draw visitors’ attention to environmental resources as well as the active recreation that’s available in abundance.
For local teams, there are ball fields and soccer fields. The basketball, tennis and volleyball courts offer options for young and old alike. If you want to jog, or just take a walk while pushing a stroller, there are loop trails throughout the park so you can vary the scenery while getting your workout.
Exercise stations along the way offer additional challenges. I looked a good long while at the parallel bars, but decided against giving them a try; I wanted to finish this series without sustaining a single injury!
Although I don’t seem to have gotten a picture of it, there was actually a tetherball set-up. I remember playing tetherball at Laurelwood Pool in North Coventry many, many years ago, but haven’t seen the game in ages. In general, two opposing players hit a ball attached to a rope around a pole. One is hitting the ball clockwise, the other is hitting it counter-clockwise. The winner is the first one to get the rope wrapped all the way around the pole, going in their direction. Stop by Community Park on the Ridge and give it a try!
This park is the site of the Township’s Annual Community Day. Here are photos from the May 2010 event.
COMMUNITY PARK ON THE RIDGE
Location: 262 Ridge Road, Spring City, PA 19475, behind the municipal building
Size: 20 acres
Suitability: All ages. Site of Township’s Annual Community Day.
Facilities: Tables, benches, pavilion, grills, sand volleyball court, tether ball, basketball court, soccer & baseball/softball fields, tennis courts, environmental markers, meadow, ornamental gardens, trees, birdhouses, exercise stations, 2 trail loops. Pavilion is available for rental.
Activities and tips: How many exercise stations can you do? Give the classic game of tetherball a try! For facility rental, call the Township and use the form here.
Hours: Dawn until dusk.
Spring City is a relatively small municipality – population about 3,400 – whose recreational facilities run the gamut from neighborhood parks to the Schuylkill River Trail.
My first stop was Borough Hall because I knew that Hall Street Park was adjacent to it, but I also needed some directions to two other parks. To get to the park itself, just go around the right side of Borough Hall and head up Hall Street. It’s got a decent incline, so just be forewarned. On your left, you’ll see the two full-court basketball courts, which are in excellent condition. The fencing on two sides ensures that your ball won’t be sailing down to the sidewalk and street below (as long as your shooting or passing isn’t too erratic!) The fairly steep-sloped grassy open space beyond the courts is probably really good for sledding, but perhaps not for ball games. There are a few benches under some trees that might make a nice shady spot for summertime reading.
I got back in my car to get to the Brown Street Park, which is at the intersection of Brown and S. Wall Streets. I wished I’d been there on a summer day because this is the site of the Spring City Pool, which is run by a non-profit called The Community Association of Spring City. The public park also has facilities for tennis and basketball, a tot lot, open space and a pavilion. I imagine it’s a beehive of activity in the summers.
The Penn State study listed the third recreational location as the “Spring City Boat Ramp Area.” I couldn’t find any reference to it online. At Borough Hall, I was directed to the vicinity of E. Bridge Street and the bridge over to Royersford. On my way there, I stopped at the Burger King; no one there knew of any ramp on the Spring City side, but they did know the Phoenixville Boat Ramp. I figured I’d just go down to the river and have a look around anyway.
I’m glad I did because I got to take a walk along another segment of the Schuylkill River Trail, which was how I started out this whole series in Riverfront Park in Pottstown. Although I will wrap up the series with one more post tomorrow, this area in Spring City was actually the last one I visited, so it felt like a fitting end to my explorations.
I walked along the trail in a southeasterly direction. If I had kept going, I might have eventually ended up in Phoenixville, although I don’t think that segment is completed yet. There was some trail construction taking place on the section leading from E. Bridge Street north toward Limerick. When I got home, I found details about the project at the Chester County Parks & Recreation website. They are constructing a 15-mile section between Phoenixville Borough and Pottstown. The website says that, “The 12-foot wide asphalt-paved trail will use PECO Energy right-of-ways, roadways, a canal towpath, public and private open space, and existing bridge and culvert structures.”
I’m going to try to keep track of the improvements and connections being made on the Schuylkill River Trail. The Trail promises to become a premier, regional recreational destination, bringing economic development potential to the towns it passes through. It should be interesting and exciting to see that transformation take place.
HALL STREET PARK
Location: 6 S. Church Street, Spring City, PA 19475, behind Borough Hall.
Size: ~2 acres.
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Two full-court basketball courts, fenced on 2 sides; open, hilly, grassy open space, benches, some trees.
Activities and tips: Walking up the grassy incline got my heart pounding! I feel I should issue a warning: See your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
BROWN STREET PARK
Location: Turn down Brown Street at the intersection with S. Wall Street. On a GPS or mapping program, use 50 Brown St., Spring City, PA 19475.
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Tennis, basketball, pavilion, public pool, tot lot, open space, parking.
Activities and tips: Tennis courts are inviting. Basketball court is in parking lot and might not be available when it’s crowded at the pool.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
SPRING CITY SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL
Location: Use 10 E. Bridge Street, Spring City, PA 19475 on a GPS or mapping program.
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Cleared and paved trail along Schuylkill River.
Activities and tips: Check Chester County Parks & Rec website before going out. Some parts of the trail may be closed while trail construction is underway.
Hours: Dawn to dusk.
On my first visit to Coventry Woods, I was alone on a Sunday afternoon. I found an access point at 2145 Coventryville Road, at the intersection with Chestnut Hill Road. After climbing an unpaved, steep incline in my car, the terrain leveled off and I came to a grassy parking area. From there, I could continue on foot in the same general direction or go off to the right, past a pavilion, down a trail clearly marked by bright red rectangles on tree trunks. I decided on the marked path, although there wasn’t a trail map at the trail head, so I didn’t know if the trail looped around or how long it was. I wasn’t comfortable heading off into the great unknown by myself, but I figured I’d at least walk a little ways to see what I could see.
Within a few minutes, I noticed some trees with orange markers, and shortly thereafter came upon an impressive signpost. It was clear then that this park had an extensive trail system. Apparently, there are trail maps at other access points, but just to be safe, hikers will want to print out this Coventry Woods Trail Map before they head out to experience this awe-inspiring wilderness.
When I pulled out my copy of Walden by Henry D. Thoreau, which I was reading for my master’s writing program, I came across this quote: “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.” As much as I would have liked to be in sync with Thoreau in that moment in Coventry Woods, I just wasn’t. (Where was Rosemary and her entire family when I needed them?!)
Fortunately, I had my North Coventry guides on my second visit to Coventry Woods. We went in at the Fernbrook access point at the intersection of Fernbrook Lane and St. Peters Road. The Township recently acquired this 39-acre parcel with numerous buildings from Nueva Esperanza Youth Camp. The purchase was made possible by a grant from the Pennyslvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
This wasn’t the first purchase made from the former owners of the camp. Over the past several years, the township has been buying parcels as funding has become available. This area is part of the Hopewell Big Woods, generally known as the most important mature forested landscape in southeastern Pennsylvania. Plugging the Coventryville Road address into Google maps or Google Earth gives a pretty good idea of the scle of this valuable ecological and recreational resource.
A couple days after this visit, Jay Kline, planning commissioner, sent me a document from their Open Space Committee (North Coventry Saved Lands Stats). It shows that since North Coventry’s 2002 open space referendum, they have saved 1,163 acres – land that will not fall victim to suburban sprawl. Their $2.1 million in open space funds leveraged $13.4 million more in private donations and state and county grants. Those acres include hundreds that now make up the 600+ acre Coventry Woods property, which may eventually connect to French Creek State Park and be part of a greenway through the township that connects to the Schuylkill River Trail.
As we walked through the Fernbrook area of Coventry Woods, which contains about a dozen rustic buildings, Andy Paravis talked about the possibility of renovating one of them for use as a nature center. I thought the site had real potential to serve as a retreat for school groups, clubs, or families just wanting to camp for a few nights in the wilderness, but there are no funds or plans to put any of the buildings into use at this time. However, there is a large pavilion with a new grill that’s available for rentals. Just get in touch with the Township at the number below.
I also learned from Mr. Kline that the directional signposts that I’d seen on my first visit were made from wood recycled from a demolished building at Camp Fernbrook. And he explained another marker that I recalled seeing – one that said, “Charcoal Hearth.”
Wood from Coventry Woods was burned in large outdoor hearths to make charcoal. “The remains of each charcoal hearth along the trail is marked with the pictured sign. Charcoal made at Coventry Woods was used at Hopewell Furnace to make iron,” wrote Mr. Kline in an email. There are numerous hearths noted on the trail map.
To learn more about Hopewell Furnace and the amount of charcoal they needed, see this link. Mr. Kline also sent a link to this site, which explains the charcoal hearth model that was carried out in Coventry Woods.
What was really striking to me on the way back from Coventry Woods to the township building, via North Coventry’s riverfront parks, was the absolutely breathtaking farmland, the rolling fields and the autumn colors as a backdrop. And then, as we got closer to the river and the more densely-populated areas of Pottstown Landing and South Pottstown, we were clearly returning to the region’s town center – Pottstown. It seemed so obvious then, how regional planning should work: a greenbelt around what could be a thriving urban center. Despite all its complexities, it’s a goal to keep moving toward.
I’d like to thank Andy Paravis, Jay Kline and Police Chief Robert Schurr for their time and for providing so much information on North Coventry’s parks and open space.
Location: 2145 Coventryville Road, Pottstown, PA 19465. Fernbrook Access: 1954 St. Peters Road, Pottstown, PA 19465
Size: 600+ acres
Suitability: All ages, except very young children will not be able to cover much ground on this sometimes hilly terrain.
Facilities: Trails, pavilions, and wilderness hiking through mature forest.
Activities and tips: See the map link in this article for other access points and parking locations.
Hours: 7 am to sunset.
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.
A big shout-out to The Mercury for sending readers this way! Whatever kind of sports, hiking, biking, model airplane (!) or nature experience you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something at one of the many local parks in Pottstown and the surrounding region. Fellow blogger Rosemary Keane and I have had a great time discovering all these amazing resources.
Please visit the Parks & Rec page for a table of contents of all the articles we’ve published over the past five weeks, thanks to the support of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation. You might also want to check out the Foundation’s Mission: Healthy Living website, which features not only the parks stories, but all kinds of other interesting health-related news to keep you and your family feeling good.
The parks articles here at Positively!Pottstown are organized by municipality, so you can locate parks in specific places or just browse and let yourself be inspired. Then pack a lunch, gather up the kids, friends, or your significant other and spend some time outdoors this weekend. You’ll be glad you did!
I meant to post earlier, but I had limited email access today, and I was on the road… in North Coventry (fact-checking), South Coventry (stopping by Woody’s Woods), and East Vincent and Spring City (checking out their parks!)
I’ll be posting more on North Coventry’s parks this weekend and then will pick up with East Vincent and Spring City later next week… after Election Day has come and gone 🙂
In the meantime, check out the recent article on Connie Batdorf Park in South Coventry. Mrs. Peg Batdorf wrote in after reading the story. I’m honored to be able to post her response. Thank you, Mrs. Batdorf!
You might also want to see the newly added notes and photos for Woody’s Woods at the end of that same article.
And I’d like to send a big shout-out to reader Elise Buskirk, who pointed out something I missed at Kenilworth Park! Read the updated blog entry here. Thank you, Elise!
And now, a feast for the eyes…
I have vague recollections of playing softball in Kenilworth Park many years ago, but was blown away by its current facilities. Scherfel Field, which was the site of a baseball game on the day I visited, is well-groomed and seems to have been recently updated. There was a strong contingent of family and friends cheering the boys on. As a couple children climbed and swung on the nearby playground equipment, a foursome expertly battled on the tennis courts. While all these facilities are in excellent condition, what makes Kenilworth Park unique is its lake and trails system.
The trails around the lake and in the woods behind and adjacent to Scherfel Field provide a chance to re-connect with nature before or after a game, on a daily walk or perhaps a few times a week to de-stress after work. The lake view is very soothing. Visiting the park on your lunch hour might also do the trick, since there is a new lake overlook area with beautiful pavers, tables and a grill. Coming alone or with some friends in the middle of the day just might release those knots of tension in your neck and help you get through the afternoon!
Kenilworth Park has another ball field that did not seem to get much use for baseball or softball. There was a soccer net set up in the outfield, indicating its use for that purpose. There is a very nice pavilion, which is available for rent from the Township for family and group gatherings.
Although the main entrance with a plaque memorializing the development of the park is at the intersection of Brown Street and Keller Road, there is another entrance at the intersection of Scherfel Boulevard and Park Avenue (which is off Route 724.) Going in through the latter entrance will bring you to a couple of parking areas, including the one closest to Scherfel Field, the lake and the overlook. While North Coventry families with children active in sports will already know about this park, all area residents who are interested in water views and a tranquil hiking experience will want to check out Kenilworth Park.
On October 29, 2010 Elise Buskirk wrote to let me know that a township building near the tennis courts in Kenilworth Park is the home of The Tae Kwon Do Academy. This school and facility offer even more opportunity for physical activity for all who are interested. Here’s what Elise had to say:
… I spend a good portion of my week in the township building studying Tae Kwon Do. The Tae Kwon Do Academy with head instructor Mr. Jay Erb rents the building from the township to offer classes to township residents and others that wish to attend. The school is a not for profit school and has been located in the Kenilworth Park township building since 1995. Since the Tae Kwon Do Academy has been in the building the students have taken on the majority of the upkeep of the building such as general maintenance, painting the interior, trimming the bushes and this year we are painting the outside of the building.
Sounds like a wonderful community! Thank you, Elise!
Location: Scherfel Boulevard & Park Avenue, Kenilworth, PA OR Brown Street & Keller Road, Kenilworth, PA
Size: 24 acres
Suitability: All ages.
Facilities: Baseball/softball fields, tennis courts, one tennis court doubles as a basketball court, soccer fields, playground, picnic pavilion, lake, paved overlook area with tables & grill, fishing, hiking/walking trails, gardens.
Activities and tips: Be sure to visit the lake area and trails. The pavilion is available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the Township for details.
Hours: 7 am to sunset.