During a particularly exciting bird walk along the creek with community residents on May 10, 2014 I was amazed by the sheer numbers of migrating songbirds that we were finding– from Worm-eating, Blue-winged, and Bay-breasted Warblers to Gray-cheeked Thrushes and a White-eyed Vireo–when up popped a Red-headed Woodpecker. Our excitement nearly tripled as we got to see this beautiful but rare bird for an extended period of time.
The Yardley Farmers’ Market, started by community volunteers, is held in Buttonwood Park every Saturday morning from 9 AM to 1 PM from May to October. 2017 will be our third year. Families and neighbors come together to shop for local food, enjoy the daily entertainment, and meet up with other friends and family. It’s the perfect location for the market, and the market could not exist without it.
We issued the invitation, and people volunteered. During the next four years, thousands of people, from Pennsylvania and beyond, visited the park to try their hand at archaeology, learning about local history as they carefully uncovered brick, nails, pottery, glass, and more at the historical site. Some people even planned vacations around a park visit, having learned of the Public Archaeology Dig from the Conde Nast publication, Cookie, and an airline magazine.
As the southern trailhead, Columbia Borough has benefitted from the construction of Columbia Crossing at Columbia River Park. This facility provides restrooms, information, interpretive displays, and indoor/outdoor event space that can be rented by community members. Columbia Borough, which owns the facility, has entered into an agreement with the Susquehanna Heritage Area for management of the facility. This facility has seen monthly visitors in excess of 3,500 in both June and July. As a volunteer at Columbia Crossing, I have met with visitors from Lancaster and surrounding counties who were drawn to the area by Columbia Crossing and the River Trail.
The transformation of the Clifford Township Recreational Complex began in 2006 with a $20,000 grant from the Keystone Fund to install a new playground and add dugouts to the existing baseball field. Improvements have continued each year thanks to the commitment of the Township Supervisors and the support of local organizations and community members. The complex is now a true neighborhood park complete with a regulation Little League field, playground areas for children ages 2-5 and 6-12, walking trails, access to the Tunkhannock Creek, and plenty of greenspace.
Just off Route 51, two miles north of Beaver Borough, is Bradys Run Park, the largest of the Beaver County parks. Situated within Brighton and Patterson Townships, Bradys Run Park’s 2,000-plus acres offer outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of recreational activities and venues. Bradys Run offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities: there are picnic shelters, athletic fields, tennis courts, an off-leash dog area, basketball courts, a skate park, a street hockey rink, a horse arena, a 1-mile walking and jogging loop, 12 miles of trails, and playgrounds.
We followed the Hawk Trail, marked by orange bird silhouettes, and reached the top within 20 minutes or so, including the inevitable stops to inspect a wandering bug or interesting leaf. The trail is steep and rocky which was a fun change from the gentler nature trails my kids are used to, but the short distance kept the hike very do-able.
Every day the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail is being used by young and old alike to experience nature. We see singles, couples, and family groups enjoying the loop trail around the pond, taking in the solitude of the towpath through the woods or standing along the Susquehanna River watching the bald eagles in flight. We have canoers, bikers, birders, and brides all using the park. The local high school takes science and history field trips to the park.
Besides addressing the demand for this type of action sport facility and promoting programs to support the changing recreation trends in the 21st century, the Skateplaza has evolved into a place where social skills are learned. Cultural and socioeconomic barriers disappear and users communicate face to face instead of through text or email. Age does not matter, and the more experienced help the less experienced.
Now that the community’s eyes have been opened to the positive impact of the Bethlehem Skateplaza, we have been able to start after-school skate programs with elementary and middle schools in the area. The classes are designed to help kids learn the basics of skateboarding in a less intimidating environment so they can fully enjoy the Skateplaza, which helps keeps them active instead just sitting inside playing video games.
Though our community is small, the love for our park is pretty big. And because of this, Stahl Park has grown through the years, due to numerous volunteers, local businesses, organizations, and Keystone Fund grants.
When I was young, the velodrome opened my eyes to the sport of track cycling. After a few years of the free community programs, which are still offered to this day, I realized my talents and passion for the sport. This facility has served as the launchpad for my Olympic career and my post-Olympic life. I owe much of what I accomplished around the world to the velodrome in Trexlertown.
During the summer we run several community programs in the park. Saturdays during the summer we offer free community fishing days for anyone who wishes to attend. Community fishing days include free bait and use of rods and instruction from dedicated park staff and volunteers. Free movie nights are also run during the summer. This year our turnout for the movie Aladdin was well over 200 people. The children enjoyed chalking pictures and messages on the park walkways prior to settling in for the movie.
I am a person who likes to go off trail, when possible. So when Pennypack on the Delaware opened, my brother and I immediately explored the gated area to the north. There we had to wade through tall grasses to access the riverside trail, and it was on that trail that I experienced my first double rainbow, my first sighting of eagles, and my first glimpse of the mouth of the Pennypack Creek. I especially like the mudflats and lilies at low tide. The trail was curious to me. It was well-worn. But who had been walking there?
The Jersey Shore Borough Public River Access project has been a tremendous success for our community. It has given our residents, visitors to our community, and tourists the opportunity to access the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. We have received a great response from those who use it, such as kayakers, canoers, and fishermen. The overlook has also been a popular area with our residents who enjoy taking in the scenic view in the evenings. They describe it as being such a relaxing place to be.
The Lime Bluff Recreation Area is great place to go birding in Lycoming County. This 65-acre park near Hughesville has a great variety of habitat. One side of the park is a wooded area where all of our common woodpecker species are often seen. Another side is a brushy area with a wet ditch running beneath it. On the other side of the brush is a Christmas tree farm. The park has a small pond as well.
We have often enjoyed Helling Stadium as the site for our Relay for Life event. Its location in the park, with easy access from Route 65, comfortable walking track, and ample parking, helps make our events success. The school district has been most cooperative with our requests and we always do our best to leave the facilities just a little cleaner than they were when we arrived. We even enjoyed the company of NHL pro hockey player Stephen Johns last year for an autograph session!
Thanks to the Keystone Fund, this route is a beautiful destination for outdoor enthusiasts and boasts one of the most impressive rail-trails in Pennsylvania. The 165-mile trail cuts through 4,500 acres of river gorge parkland along the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers, weaving past stunning landscapes, historic towns, dramatic waterfalls, and the remnants of the Lehigh and Delaware canals.
The 21-acre Island Park, nestled between the Schuylkill River and the Reading and Blue Mountain Railroads, is Schuylkill Haven’s only remaining open recreational space. Before the flood, the area accommodated a few softball and soccer fields. The community had considered improvements to the park over the years. But the flood damage forced them to start from scratch.
Although Columbia has always been technically on the map, the community is now a destination. Instead of stumbling upon it, visitors seek out its recreational opportunities. These visitors are not just spending their time in the borough–they’re spending their money.