Some Fountain Hill parents are angry that a free summer recreation program for borough children was abruptly canceled without explanation Monday, nearly two weeks before it was scheduled to end.
The popular weekday program, which was being held mornings and evenings in the playground area of the borough park on Stanley Avenue, was to supposed to be held through Friday, Aug. 11.
Instead, participants were informed Tuesday that July 31 was the final day of this year’s program.
“The Borough is sorry to announce that the park program will be closed for the season,” was the message posted on the Fountain Hill Borough official Facebook page.
No reason for the abrupt end to it was given, and the fact that most if not all attendees apparently didn’t know that their last day was Monday sparked outrage among some residents.
“How do you close a program without warning and telling the kids?” Lauren Rosado asked before the borough turned off comments for its post. “The kids of Fountain Hill wake up every morning with one thing on their mind…camp! For them to wake up today to be informed it was just shut down, and that they can’t have one last day with their friends or say goodbye to the counselors who played with them all summer is absolutely ridiculous.”
“I would like a clear explanation of why such a drastic measure has been taken with absolutely no warning,” Rosado continued. “Also, it would have been nice if whomever made this decision could have spoke up last night at the community fire truck event and told all the kids and parents. What a low blow to our community and our children!”
“This borough is so pathetic! We have nothing for our kids to do!” commented Donna Rohrbach. Referring to the annual celebration of community-police partnerships that was taking place in many local communities Tuesday night, she added that “Tonight is National Night Out! What is Fountain Hill doing? Oh Nothing! What a surprise!”
Bobbie Sue Pacheco called the decision to end the program early “absolutely heartbreaking for the kids and counselors.”
“They have spent their summer building relationships, being active and having fun, as kids should be doing!” she said. “Now they have no place to go and stay engaged. These children have no other safe outlets. You have put our area youth at risk. No matter what the issues, I have been made aware as to what they are, there is an appropriate way to handle situations. To make all suffer for a few is not the right route. BRING BACK THE PARK PROGRAM.”
“Honestly what has happened to the borough?” asked Kyle Rohrbach. “It’s one horrendous handling of an incident after another.”
No further official statements have been provided by the borough, however at least one council member has commented on a post by Pacheco in the Complainers of Fountain Hill Facebook group.
As of Wednesday afternoon, that post had generated nearly 60 comments, many of which excoriated borough officials for both the perceived lack of transparency in their decision to end the program and the manner in which it was communicated to participants.
A number of parents and other residents who are upset about the decisions said they are planning to attend the next Fountain Hill Borough Council meeting, which will be held Monday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, 941 Long St., Fountain Hill. Others said they also plan to attend council’s next recreation committee meeting.
The recreation committee is chaired by councilwoman Jamie Johnson. Council members Will Rufe and Philip Trabel are also members of it.
Fountain Hill is a Lehigh County community of approximately 5,000 people in which there are fairly few summer recreation options, particularly since the closure of the borough’s swimming pool.
The pool is in need of extensive repairs, some of which the nonprofit Fountain Hill Community Coalition has partnered with the borough to assess. However, the primary reason it remained closed for a second consecutive season this year, according to council, was a lack of available staff. Council cited the staffing shortage in announcing its decision to keep the pool shuttered in May.
The pool has not been open for a full season since the summer of 2019. Like most public pools in the area, it was closed in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. In the summer of 2021, a skeleton crew of employees operated the facility on a limited schedule. In early 2022, following a community survey and public meeting, council voted to close the pool permanently. Due to public outcry which precipitated the formation of the FHCC, it later walked back that decision and agreed to work with the group’s volunteers in their ongoing effort to save the pool.
In addition to dealing with infrastructure and other financial challenges, Fountain Hill Borough Council is now in the midst of a search to find a new borough manager.
The borough’s acting borough manager since the spring has been Jason Quarry, a longtime borough employee who heads the public works department.
Saucon Source reached out to both Johnson and Rufe to offer them an opportunity to provide additional information about the decision to end the program.
Both said they could not comment.
Note: This is a developing local news story. If or when additional information becomes available, it will be updated.