Heidelberg Township recently completed a new playground on its municipal property at 111 Mill Road in Schaefferstown.
The playground is situated between two baseball fields and beside a pavilion. As part of the project, the court used for basketball and pickleball was resurfaced and painted.
Mary Jo Herr, secretary of the Heidelberg Township Park and Recreation board, and Jackie Fetter, vice chair, shared with LebTown how the new playground came to be.
The board itself was established around 2017 by the supervisors.
Around the summer of 2018, Herr, a 37-year Heidelberg Township resident, Fetter, a 47-year Heidelberg Township resident, and a few others volunteered to serve on the board, which was being reorganized at the time.
“It was suggested … it would be nice to have a playground area for younger children whose older siblings are playing ball, and they have to wait. So, that’s where the initiative came from,” Fetter said.
“And then, the board in 2018 began planning what we wanted to see, what age group we were targeting, and where we could build something.”
Members of the board conducted research for the new playground by browsing catalogs of playground equipment and visiting playgrounds in surrounding areas.
When COVID-19 struck the area, the board had to stop meetings and put the playground project on hold.
As pandemic guidelines relaxed, the board was reorganized once more as some members who joined in 2018 were no longer interested in being part of the board, and some new people were interested in joining.
The current board is composed of chairman Marshal Kramer, Dustyn Miller, and David Knauss, in addition to Herr and Fetter.
The original budget for the playground project was $37,000. Half a decade and a pandemic later, the final budget for the project had grown almost three times in size, to $110,000.
“We did have about $37,000 in the budget that came from a builder that had built townhomes in Schaefferstown,” Herr said. “And because they did not include a green space or recreation space in their development, they pay what is called an ‘in lieu of’ fee.”
The in lieu of fee is charged per housing unit for the purpose of the municipality developing recreation spaces.
In addition, Bob Lynn of Hanover Engineering helped the board apply for grants.
At the end of 2020, the board, with Lynn’s assistance, applied for a grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Although the municipality was not approved for the grant, they were encouraged to reapply.
Heidelberg Township reapplied for the grant at the end of 2021 and was ultimately approved. The grant was distributed through Jen Snyder, Heidelberg Township manager, in 2022 and funded the playground equipment.
The township maintenance road crew prepared the grounds for the installation of the playground equipment.
The new playground, which is geared for youth between the ages of 5 and 12, offers something “for all abilities” with an activity board, swings, climbers, and sliding boards.
Visitors can access the playground by parking in two ADA-accessible parking spaces or general parking, respectively, and using a paved walkway leading to the playground.
The playground is complete and open to the public, with the grassy area surrounding it having been seeded and roped off. A water fountain is planned near the pavilion.
Fetter said there has been some talk about a dedication and/or ribbon cutting ceremony for the playground, but no date has been set by the supervisors or township manager.
When asked what’s next for the Heidelberg Township Park and Recreation board, Herr said, “We are always coming up with ideas. Not all of our ideas come to fruition, but … our next project, I guess, would be to improve the walking trail that is in Schaefferstown and make it a little bit easier to navigate.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect address for the Heidelberg Township municipal building. We sincerely regret the error.
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