Bushong Dam to be demolished and replaced with Confluence Park

Reading Dam

READING, Pa. - Reading City Council, at its meeting Monday night, voted unanimously to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the removal of the Bushong Dam.

The dam, located along the Tulpehocken Creek in the Glenside neighborhood, near the confluence of the Schuylkill River, was originally built in 1892 to power the Bushong Paper Company.

According to council members, while the structure of the dam remains largely intact, a study of the area indicated that approximately $590,000 in updates and repairs would be required to make the area safe.

There is too much unguarded access to the water, and the city would be liable for any accidents.

The resolution adopted by the council calls not only for the demolition of the dam, but also for the construction of a new park in the area.

The park will be under the direction of the Berks County park system, which relieves the city of any future liability.

The agreement to replace the dam with a park also provides the opportunity for state grant money for both projects.

City Managing Director Carole Snyder explained that the city has access to grant money to aid in the construction of the new Confluence Park, but the only way to get access to those funds is by applying for it alongside an application for the demolition of the dam.

She said that, while removing the dam may be painful for residents who have come to love the area, there is a lot to look forward to.

"It's not about just destroying something, it's about creating something," Snyder said.

Councilwoman Donna Reed spoke at length about her vote.

"This has been a long time coming, and many of you know that five years ago I had a very different opinion of this," she said.

Reed explained that, while she understands there is a lot of affection for the dam as a part of the city's history, it no longer serves a purpose and the city has to consider the financial and safety concerns over maintaining it.

She also held that removal of the dam will not have any negative effects on the creek.

"Over the years, we've had to make a lot of dam decisions," Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz joked, but she was serious about letting the public know that, although the DEP is also studying the safety of many other local dams, each area will be looked at separately, and this decision will in no way affect other waterways.

The demolition of the dam and construction of Confluence Park is expected to take several years, but city officials said they will begin the process as early as May 28, 2015.

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