Disagreement means part of Kaercher Creek Park near Hamburg may not reopen

WINDSOR TWP., Pa. - A beloved park in Berks County is about to undergo some dreaded changes.

County officials said they were left with no choice but to close parts of Kaercher Creek Park, a popular site in Windsor Township for decades.

"It's disappointing," said Keith Symons. "Any change sounds like it will not be in the best interest of people who want to use it."

But that's far from the case, according to Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, who voted, along with the fellow board members, to terminate a lease agreement with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which owns the property.

After a year of failed negotiations, Leinbach said the decision came when the FBC refused to compensate the board for future environmental concerns and subsequent cleanup.

"We were not willing to take that kind of potentially multi-million dollar risk for our taxpayers," said Leinbach, who claimed his hands were tied.

"We've been forced to take the step that we've taken... not because we want to," said Leinbach. "We love the facility. It's one of the gems."

The risk for future environmental problems is perhaps heightened, considering the park's history with lead contamination. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lead-containing battery fragments have been discovered near a wooded area in the park, which has since been fenced off.

Now, with the lease termination, Leinbach said more areas of the park may be gated off, too, on or before April 30. Certain amenities, including public restrooms, a sand volleyball court, and portable grills, will be no more.

But according to Rick Levis, spokesman with the Fish and Boat Commission, a portion for fishing and boating will be actively maintained.

On Thursday, Levis said he was surprised by the county commissioners' decision and hopes the board will be open to renegotiating. As for the negotiation specifics, however, he declined to comment.

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