(Berks County, PA)- Berks County Park Rangers are using two wheels for a two-pronged initiative intended to educate and further protect patrons of Berks County’s parks. Earlier in the summer, members of the Berks County Park Rangers began using bicycles to patrol the Union Canal Trail and the trails around Antietam Lake.
“Not only does it ensure public safety, but it’s a way to engage the public to make sure they’re following safe bicycle practices,” explained Albert Evans, Park Ranger Supervisor.
Patrols will be added in two phases. The first phase of patrols are currently underway following the completion of a training course by two rangers and the acquisition of bicycles, a bicycle rack and high visibility uniforms. Two additional rangers will be trained and are expected to begin patrols later this month. The training course was provided at no cost to the county as an in-kind donation by state-certified instructor and retired Reading Police Sergeant, John Pontician.
Bike Patrol Rangers will be equipped with mountain bikes and first aid kits at all times.
“We frequently come across injuries on the trail. The majority of medical emergencies that occur in the parks, rangers are the first responders and often come across them before 9-1-1 is called.,” Evans said. “Bicycles offer a more effective and efficient way to patrol areas that are being used more and more and that are not accessible other than walking.”
The bicycle patrol unit was made possible by a generous showing of support from the Greater Berks County community. Bicycles were donated by the Reading Police Department and Retired Philadelphia Police Officer Joe Purfield, Sr.. Purfield will also donate his time to train rangers on the maintenance of their bikes. JB Mountain Bikes of Shillington provided service to the donated bicycles.
Bern Township Police Officers are also assisting in the bike patrols of the Union Canal Trail, which runs between Blue Marsh Lake and the Stonecliffe Recreation Area. The trail sees significant traffic from walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
With the addition of a bicycle patrol around Antietam Lake, rangers will have increased access to remote portions of the property that cannot accommodate vehicles. This will mean an increased presence in those areas and allow for a faster response time in emergencies.
“It’s going to give us the ability to check places you can’t get to, where it’s either foot or bicycle,” said Evans. “You’re putting park rangers out where they can oversee what’s going on and where the public sees them.”
The Berks County Parks & Recreation Department is charged with the development, operation, and maintenance of all the County-owned Parks, recreation facilities, and historic sites. The Department is responsible for providing recreational opportunities as well as addressing the interpretive and educational needs as related to these facilities.