Parks and Recreation

 

Allegheny Aqueduct Historical Park

The Allegheny Aqueduct was built by the Schuylkill Navigation Company in 1824 under the direction of Engineer Ephriam Beech. This "bridge for boats" was needed because the Allegheny Creek could not be incorporated into the canal system. The Schuylkill Canal, a slackwater navigation system, began at Mill Creek, Schuylkill County, and traveled to its destination in Philadelphia; both the canal and the aqueduct ceased to be used as a transportation system in 1931. The aqueduct is a massive 112 1/2 foot structure consisting of five red sandstone and brownstone arches done with the "keystone" theme. In the 1830's, bricks were added underneath the arches to prevent leakage. The canal was originally lined with clay, but in 1870 a concrete liner was formed into the top of the aqueduct, and metal spikes that protruded from the concrete were used to hold timber planking that prevented the canal boats from scraping on the concrete. In 1983, the Schuylkill River Greenway Association began efforts to restore the aqueduct and subsequently had the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restoration efforts were celebrated in February, 1990, and now the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department administers this historic landmark from Berks County's past.The Allegheny aqueduct is a massive 112 1/2 foot structure consisting of five red sandstone and brownstone arches done with the "keystone" theme. Located adjacent to the aqueduct, the Beidler House was built in 1783 by Conrad Beidler to serve as a home for the operator of the nearby mill. The Beidler House is open to the public for an "Open House" in the Spring for an Interpretive Program about the history of the house, mill and aqueduct conducted by costumed guides. The Beidler House is also open in December for a "Colonial Candlelight Holiday Reception".


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Antietam Lake

Antietam Lake Park is located in Berks County, just east of the City of Reading. The park's main feature is Antietam Lake, a 13.5 acre impoundment of Antietam Creek which once served as a water supply for the City of Reading. Park land surrounds the lake providing, a scenic setting for nature-based recreation. Antietam Lake Park is located primarily in Lower Alsace Township with a small portion in Alsace Township located just east of the City of Reading. Access to the park is from Hill Road, Antietam Road, and Angora Road. Antietam Lake Park is the county's newest parkland acquisition. At 643 acres, Antietam Lake Park doubled the acreage of the park system and expanded opportunities for enjoyment of the scenic resources of the county. The origins of Antietam Lake date back to 1865 when the City of Reading purchased a dam and gristmill on Antietam Creek as a water supply for the City. The location was favored for a water supply because water could flow by gravity to the City. The dam was enlarged in 1872 and again in 1880 to a capacity of 101,000,000 gallons. The new dam was constructed of huge dressed boulders and the sides of the entire reservoir were riprapped to prevent erosion. The maximum depth of the lake was 45 feet. In 1915, the dam was reconstructed to add a 30-foot wide spillway. Water flows over the 60-foot high solid rock wall which was designed as a natural waterfall. The rock of the waterfall has been studied by generations of geologists and their students and is thought to be 1-1.2 billion years old. A unique feature of Antietam Lake is the octagonal brick valve house on a stone foundation set within the lake. This structure was built in 1880 to house the valve controls for the dam. A wooden bridge extends from the shore to the structure. A caretaker's house was also developed in 1880 across Angora Road from the valve house. In 1894, studies found that water from Lake Antietam was contaminated as a result of barnyard runoff. The City of Reading Board of Water Commissioners addressed the crisis by purchasing all surrounding farms within the area and removing the buildings. This was the first purchased primary watershed in the United States. The only remaining buildings were the Bingaman house and barn located on Hill Road. This building has seen many uses since that time, most recently as the City of Reading Department of Recreation Nature Center. Additional improvements were undertaken to enhance water quality of the lake. The Hinnershitz mill dam on Antietam Creek was rebuilt in 1888 to include a settling basin to collect sediment and prevent it from reaching Antietam Lake. The wall below this dam was straightened. A second settling basin was constructed at the mouth of the lake in 1899. This basin was configured with a dam of seven stone steps. Water flows over the steps into Antietam Lake. A third settling basin was developed where Bingaman's Run flows into the lake. The land surrounding Antietam Lake was reforested in the early 1900's to prevent soil erosion. A tree nursery was developed on site to provide evergreen seedlings for transplanting throughout the Antietam Lake watershed. Antietam Lake was officially closed as a water reservoir in 1974. In 1989, the spillway of the lake was lowered 4'6" for safety concerns. The lower elevation left the Bingaman's Run settling basins higher than the lake, allowing Bingaman's Run to bypass the basins and discharge directly into the lake.


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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail spans the diverse terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Though the typical landscape is wooded-hence the nickname "the green tunnel"-the Trail passes many scenic overlooks. There are short stretches through farmland, along rivers, over southern balds and through swamps on boardwalks or "bog bridges." In New Hampshire and Maine, the trail climbs across exposed areas above treeline. By design, the A.T. is primitive and routed away from developed areas, but it does go through roughly half a dozen small towns where it passes through valleys or gaps, and there are a few, short wheelchair-accessible sections. Hikers may encounter graded switchbacks, steep climbs, undulating ridges or rocky scrambles. The path is often rugged and narrow. Flat sections are infrequent, and seldom last long. Many areas are rocky, especially in the northern half of the Trail. Almost every state has some steep or long climbs, but every state has some easy or moderate sections too. All offer rewarding experiences for those who are well prepared.


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Bear Creek Mountain Resort

Bear Creek Mountain Resort & Conference Center is nestled on over 330 wooded acres in scenic Berks County, Pennsylvania. The resort offers skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing in the winter, and hiking, biking, fishing, boating, tennis and nearby golf during the spring, summer, and fall. Guests can plan an event in the spacious banquet and meeting facilities with mountain views, dine at The Grille at Bear Creek, or the Trail's End Cafe, relax at The Spa at Bear Creek or vacation at our beautiful resort hotel, with indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs.


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Berks County Heritage Center

The Berks County Heritage Center is a historical interpretive complex commemorating important eras of our cultural history. The Gruber Wagon Works, a National Historic Landmark, the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Wertz's Covered Bridge, Melcher's Grist Mill, Deppen Cemetery, Bicentennial Eagle Memorial, Police and Veteran's Memorial, Doctor's Grove, the Distlefink and a salad and herb garden are all encompassed within the Heritage Center. The stone house serves as an information center, as well as the offices for the Interpretive Sevices staff. The Heritage Center hosts the annual Heritage Festival in October and several other annual events, along with a seasonal Interpretive Program series featuring workshops and programs for all ages. For a program guide, call 610-374-8839 or e-mail the Heritage Center at parks@countyofberks.com. Hours of Operation The Heritage Center is open from May 1 through the last Sunday in October. The hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.; the center is also open summer holidays. Tours are available daily; the last tour leaves one hour before closing. For more information, call 610-374-8839.


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Berks Leisure Area

The Berks Leisure Area is a recreational facility which includes a picnic pavilion, badminton and shuffleboard courts, quoit and horseshoe pits. The iron and wood footbridge provides access to the Union Canal Bicycle and Walking Trail on the opposite side of Tulpehocken Creek. This bridge marks the location of a mule bridge that was used in conjunction with the operation of the Union Canal. Crossing over the bridge from the Berks Leisure Area, the remains of lift Lock No. 51 of the Union Canal can be found.


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Blue Marsh Lake

Blue Marsh Lake is located outside of Reading in Berks County, Pa. The lake is a multi-purpose project built and maintained by the Philadelphia District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam was authorized by Congress for flood control, water supply, water quality and recreation. Construction began in 1974 and was completed in 1979. The reservoir is located on the Tulpehocken Creek and the project's water control practices benefit the downstream communities of Reading, Birdsboro, Pottstown, Conshohocken and sections of Philadelphia. While the original goal of Blue Marsh Lake was to provide flood control to part of the Schuylkill River Valley over the years the lake has become a recreational hotspot. With over 36 miles of trails, 1,147 acres of water surface, picnic areas, a small beach and boat launches the lake can accommodate all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. The reach of Blue Marsh Lake does not stop there. Over the years, the park has grown its outreach effort and organizes volunteers for events that happen all year round. Tours for school-age children, bird watching, Lenape Native American education and water safety are some of the types of programs organized by Blue Marsh Lake staff and volunteer groups. The dam is an earthfill dam that that is 1,775 feet long, 98 feet high and can hold upwards of 16.28 billion gallons of water. During the summer months, the water level is 290 feet and 285 during the winter. The facilities offer something for everyone. The recreation areas are open at 8 a.m. every day and close accordingly during each season. Three boat launches: Dry Brooks Boat Launch ($3 fee per vehicle/$1 per person walk in charged from May 1 to September 30) State Hill Boat Launch ($3 fee per vehicle/$1 per person walk in charged from May 1 to September 30) Sheidy Boat Ramp (operated by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and requires proper state permits) Dry Brooks Day Use area has three pavilions that operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. There are also many stand alone picnic tables and grills. Bathrooms and a concession stand are centrally located. If you want to take a dip, the swim beach is at the area-but be careful as there are no lifeguards on duty and it is swim at your own risk. There is a daily fee of $3 per vehicle/$1 per person walk in charged for access to the day use area; an annual pass can be purchased for $30. There are trails for every type of activity. The multi-use loop trail circles the lake and you can ride a horse, bike, walk or run. This trail also connects with the Berks County Park & Recreation trail system. Skinners Loop and Foxtrot Hiking trail are connected to the multi-use trail and will bring you close to the water's edge. The Squirrel Run trail is near the State Hill Boat Ramp. There also are the universally accessible Eyes of the Eagle Sensory trail and the Great Oak Nature Trail located at the day use area. Stilling Basin is where the water is expelled from the dam and has become a popular fishing location and has a universally accessible fishing platform. The Visitor Center overlooks the dam tower and offers a spectacular view of the lake. Find information about this and other Corps projects and learn more about dam tending with a visit.


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Camp Joy

The primary function of Camp Joy is to serve as a weekday resident/day camp during the summer months. Located on a 22-acre site behind the Berks Heim Annex, the camp is also available to organized groups for picnics, retreats, and other special events on summer weekends and throughout the week during the autumn, winter and spring. A central lodge houses kitchen and dining facilities, showers, restrooms and a multi-purpose room. Outdoor facilitites include three picnic pavillions, softball field, volleyball and basketball courts, quoit and horseshoe pits, a swimming pool and bathhouse, six overnight cabins, and an outdoor education.


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City Park Fireman's Memorial Bandshell

The City Park Fireman's Memorial Bandshell was dedicated on Labor Day in 1939. The Bandshell, located at Hill Road & Constitution Blvd in Reading, is home to the Ashley for the Arts Bandshell Concert Series held annually. In 2011 the Bandshell was renovated at a cost of a about one million dollars.


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Exeter Township Community Park

Scenic Community Park, also called Happy Landings, is located off Elm Street in St. Lawrence Borough, down from Lausch Elementary School. The park includes tennis and basketball courts, two play areas, a large and small pavilion for rent, a walking/biking trail, and sports fields. Bathrooms are also available during the day for public use. For rental information or events held at the park please contact the Township Office at (610) 779-5660.


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French Creek State Park

Once an industrial complex for the fledgling United State of America, today French Creek State Park is an oasis for people and wildlife. Straddling the Schuylkill Highlands, the 7,730-acre park is the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City. The forests, lakes, wetlands and fields are a destination for the people of southeast Pennsylvania to hike, fish, camp and bike. Those same habitats are homes to many animals and plants that are rare in this corner of the commonwealth. French Creek State Park is an Important Bird Area and Important Mammal Area as designated by the National Audubon Society and also has Pine Swamp, a State Park Natural Area. Set amidst the old, quaint and picturesque farmland of southeast Pennsylvania, French Creek offers two lakes--Hopewell and Scotts Run, extensive forests and almost 40 miles of hiking trails. Adjacent to the park lies Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site that features a cold-blast furnace restored to its 1830s appearance. The forest covering the park has changed since Hopewell Furnace began operation, producing iron for a young America from 1771 to 1883. It required tremendous amounts of charcoal to fuel the large blast furnace. Woodcutters chopped wood from the forest and colliers burned it in "hearths" throughout the wooded hills surrounding the furnace to produce charcoal. To sustain the furnace operations, the entire area now contained in French Creek State Park was timbered repeatedly to make charcoal. The original forest of predominately American chestnut was cleared and eventually mixed oak forests developed after the furnace closed in 1883. It is hard to imagine that the thickly wooded hillsides enjoyed by today's visitors were once barren and treeless. The forest of French Creek State Park played a vital role in America's industrial infancy. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Federal government purchased much of the land used for charcoal production as part of a national project to reclaim marginal lands. This project provided jobs and improved local economies by developing recreation sites called recreation demonstration areas. Two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were built at French Creek and operated until the early 1940s. The camps built two dams, two group camps, several tent camping areas, beaches, roads, picnic areas, and started the restoration process for the historic core of Hopewell Furnace. In 1946, most of the property and recreation facilities were transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and French Creek State Park was created. The historic core of the furnace operations and some of the surrounding fields and woodlands were retained and are administered by the National Park Service as Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.


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Gring's Mill Recreational Area

The historic buildings at Gring's Mill Recreation Area house the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department's administration and maintenance offices. An information center, group meeting facilities, snack bar, and restrooms are located in the adjoining barn. Recreation facilities include six tennis courts, a softball field, an eighteen station exercise course, one sand volleyball court, and a ranch-theme children's play area. A game court area features volleyball and shuffleboard courts, quoits, and horseshoe pits. Summer highlights at the Mill include annual festivals presented by the Recreation Division such as EGGstravaganza and the Summer Concert Series held at the outdoor amphitheater on Sunday evenings, Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Gring's Mill also hosts the Holiday Lights Program during the month of December.


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Hunsicker's Grove

This 49-acre park is located in Longswamp Township. Hunsicker's Grove is available by reservation for large group picnics.


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Kaercher Creek Park

Located just east of Hamburg along old Route 22, Kaercher Creek Park offers recreation opportunities in northern Berks County. The park is developed around a 40-acre lake, complete with a fishing dock, boat dock and a boat launching ramp. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission. Family oriented facilities feature a lodge, picnic pavilion, children's play apparatus, volleyball courts, sand volleyball court, quoit and horseshoe pits. Several summer concerts and interpretive programs are presented at Kaercher Creek Park.


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Leesport Lock House

The Leesport Lock House, built in 1834 by the Schuylkill Navigation Company, was an integral part of canal development and community and rural life from 1820 to the early 1900's. Through local research and an archaeological study, the stone house has been restored to its condition in the 1880-1910 period when the canal still functioned and horse and wagon served as the major form of transportation. The Lock House and grounds are maintained by the Leesport Lock House Foundation in cooperation with the Berks County Parks & Recreation Department. The facility is available for rent for small group meetings by calling (610) 926-5665.


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Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

The Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center offers environmental education programs. The center covers more than 665 acres of beautiful deciduous woodlands and coniferous plantations. The Nolde mansion, located near the eastern park boundary, houses offices for the center staff. The C. H. McConnell Environmental Education Hall near the mansion is the indoor site for year-round programming. When hosiery baron Jacob Nolde acquired this area in the early 1900s, a single white pine grew amid meadow vegetation. Inspired by this tree, the German-born Nolde hired an Austrian forester to create a coniferous forest. As the plantations grew they formed a "luxury forest," a source of family pleasure and pride. In 1926, Hans Nolde, a son of Jacob, initiated work on the Tudor-style mansion. When this year-round home was finished, it overlooked the sawmill pond and the lights of Reading. The Nolde Forest continues to provide outdoor opportunities for visitors. The Commonwealth purchased the property in the late 1960s with Project 70 funds. The Project 500 bond issues provided the funds necessary for the center's development. In 1970, federal program grants and the Berks County Intermediate Unit helped establish Nolde Forest as the first environmental education center operated by the Bureau of State Parks. Since the center's conception, the Bureau has maintained an enduring commitment to environmental education and interpretation. Since the early 1970's, the center has provided a wide variety of activity-oriented programs for students, teachers, adult groups and individuals. A normal school day brings several classes of students to participate in the center's discovery and problem solving approach to environmental studies. Together, teachers and students explore different aspects of the environment and develop concepts and skills that help them become effective environmental decision-makers. The center, often in cooperation with the Berks County Intermediate Unit or nearby colleges and universities, sponsors teacher in-service training and college-level workshops on environmental education curricula and current environmental topics. Contact the center office for a listing of upcoming educational programs. The office and mansion parking lot are open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. All other areas are open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. A Single White Pine, a book on the history of Nolde Forest, may be purchased at the center.


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Ozzy's Family Fun Center

Ozzy's is great fro Birthday Parties, Compnay Picnics, Team Building, Group Events, Field Trips, Fund Raising, All Night Jamborees, Family Reunions, Church Events, and Offsite Entertainment. Exciting attractions at Ozzy's include an Arcade, Go-Carts, Lasertron, Skate World, Rock Climbing, Ropes Course, Bumper Boats, Mini Golf, Adventure Challenge, Jump Factory, and a Sports Arena. The Arcade features a unique assortment of classics such as pin ball, skee ball, Miss. Pacman, and arcade favorites such as Deal or No Deal, Dance Dance Revolution, and Star Wars Trilogy Arcade. The Skating rink is fully out fitted with 100% L.E.D. lighting. The Rocks and Ropes Course is a total high adventure experience. The course includes two 25' rock walls each of a different skill level. All participants are hooked to an "Auto-Belay" that automatically tightens as you climb and will safely and slowly float you to the ground. The Cargo Net Climb is the best option if you have trouble holding onto rock walls. The Ropes Course features two exciting levels, one lower, and one higher. Each level features seven distinct elements to navigate through. Each partcipant navigates themselves through the course wearing a harness and safety rope that glides along with you in a steel channel. Ozzy's abides by the Pennsylvania State regulations for climbing walls and ASTM standards for rope courses. Ozzy's J&J Amusement Blaster Bumper Boats are electric boats which means no nasty gasoline or oil, and a crystal clear pond. Ozzy's offers a beautiful 29 Hole Golf Course! The course offers a scenic experience through water features, classic victorian buildings and a beautifuly landscaped course. The Adventure Challenge is a three-story play maze complete with tunnels, bridges and spiral slides. It is high adventure for the kids and the kids at heart. Not only does the adventure challenge stimulate the physical with the climbing, sliding and swaying but it also stimulates the mind as each adventure takes you into a world of imagination filled with rockets and caves, escape tunnels and slides, and it is where everyone is the hero in their own castle. On the ground floor is a place for the smaller adventure seekers (40 inches or smaller). Ozzy's Sport Arena is covered with a turf that uses a unique carpet like cushion textured backing. The turf can support vigorous play that comes from basketball, volleyball, football, baseball, field hockey, soccer, and baskerball (a fast paced game that combines basketball and soccer).


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Reading Rivertribe

Go with the flow and paddle America's "Hidden River", discovering a world of fun, adventure, education, and excitement. The Schuylkill River is Pennsylvania's first designated "Scenic River". A great getaway river, yet close to everything...its banks are virtually untouched by development. Gorgeous wilderness-like scenery and the pleasures of paddling on the river make this a great family and group activity, and a local and affordable vacation option. From smooth flowing water river trips to class II whitewater rapids, anyone can enjoy a great day on the river!


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Red Bridge Recreation Area

The Red Bridge, originally known as Wertz's Bridge, at 204 feet is the longest single span covered bridge in Pennsylvania. Built in 1867 and one of five remaining in Berks County, the covered bridge allows pedestrians to pass over the Tulpehocken Creek to the Union Canal Bicycle and Walking Trail and the Berks County Heritage Center. The Red Bridge Recreation Area, located just south of Wertz's Bridge on Tulpehocken Road, consists of a picnic pavilion, badminton court, horseshoe and quoit pits and a children's play area with a fort and Native American log houses depicting the early settlement of Berks County.


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Skateaway

Skateaway was founded in 1971. Skateaway of Shillington, PA is an indoor Roller/Inline Skating Rink open year round. Public Roller skating sessions for the public are one of the main attractions at Skateaway. Their public sessions are a fun way to get some exercise at a price you can't beat; it's more exciting (and has better music) than your local gym! Skateaway offers Roller Skating Lessons for adult and children. For beginners they usually focus on providing the basics. For more advanced skaters they focus on proper form, technique and getting you ready to meet your goals. At Skateaway, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with Inline Hockey, Speed Skating, Roller Derby, and more. Skateaway is also a great and fun place to reserve a Birthday Party, Private Party, or a Fundraiser.


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Stonecliffe Recreation Area

Stonecliffe Recreation Area provides opportunities for family-oriented recreation and athletics. Facilities include an Action Park for skates and bikes, two volleyball courts, a basketball court, shuffleboard courts, and a combination football/soccer field. There is also a fitness station for both able-bodied and physically challenged persons. A centrally located children's play area is adjacent to the fishing dock and picnic area.


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The Works

Set in a renovated historic turn of the century factory building, The Works at Wyomissing is southeastern Pennsylvania's premier food and fun destination offering nearly an acre of space for your enjoyment. Ballocity is the latest addition to The Works at Wyomissing. Located directly above their gigantic gameroom, Ballocity is perfect for all ages from toddlers to adults. Ballocity is the ultimate climbing facility featuring climbing tubes, slides, foam ball launchers and so much more! The Works has the largest game room and prize center in the area....over a million dollars worth of the greatest video games, simulators, redemption pieces, and more! No coins are needed with their "play card" system, and VIP players get special discounts each time they play! Looking for the perfect place to host a special event, party or fundraiser? The Works offers a one-of-a-kind facility that's fun, has prices that are affordable, has friendly and attentive service, and has consistently high-quality food. The Works is the "venue of choice" for many area businesses wanting to show their employees and clients a good time. Whether it's a casual get together, or a white tablecloth event with a fully customized menu, the Works has many repeat corporate clients who trust us to meet their entertainment needs. Want a hassle free birthday party for your child? Packages include pizza, soft drinks, invitations, paper products, gamecards, cake and candles. Each kids birthday party includes a t-shirt and ballocity pass!


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Youth Recreation Facility

This facility, located at the intersection of County and Upper Van Reed Roads in Bern Township, is comprised of four soccer fields (one lighted) and four ball fields - a Legion field, Little League field, lighted Softball field and Tee-ball field. Teams interested in scheduling use of these fields can call the Park Office at (610) 372-8939. The YRF is also home to the annual "Go Fly A Kite" Day Also planned for the facility is an Adaptive Play Area for physically challenged children and an educational farm.


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