The loss of 100 flood-prone Plymouth Township structures over the last decade was sad, but Monday’s demolition of the township recreation complex was particularly stinging for Gale Conrad.
“All we can do now is drive by and have good, fond memories of what it was for generation after generation,” said Conrad, a township supervisor. “It’s part of my history.”
The site along Route 11 buzzed with activity after the volunteer Plymouth Township Recreation Association acquired the two parcels totaling 10.2 acres in 1960 and 1966, according to Conrad and records.
Her father was a Teener League coach at the complex, and she attended countless ball games to cheer on her brothers and later her own children, now in their 30s and 40s.
Township residents past and present still fondly recall Easter egg hunts and bazaars at the complex, she said.
In later years, the complex hosted car, truck and bike shows to raise money for the egg hunt and utility and insurance bills to operate the park.
Residents banded together and sacrificed time for fundraisers to maintain the park and provide activities for youth, she said.
At its height, approximately 85 men and women were active in the association and its ladies auxiliary, she said. By 2007, only five families were actively involved.
“No doubt about it, volunteerism is not what it was like back in the day. Some people still volunteer, but times have changed,” Conrad said.
The complex remained open after flooding damage in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but it could not bounce back after record Susquehanna River flooding in September 2011, Conrad said.
Both structures — a pavilion with attached restrooms and an office and a building housing a kitchen and concession/game stands — were completely underwater, resulting in foundation damage and rotting lumber, she said.
Sections of the ceiling fell down as Conrad and others attempted to clean up after the flood.
Restoration, including electrical upgrades, would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and government funding is not an option because the site is in a high-risk flood area, she said.
“When the ‘11 flood hit, that was it. It was beyond the point of no return,” Conrad said.
The recreation association transferred ownership of the complex to the township in July 2015.
With the assistance of county community development blight funding, the township hired a demolition contractor to remove the two structures and two dugouts, Conrad said.
A gate blocks public access, and grass will be planted where the structures once stood, she said.
Township officials plan to assemble old photographs of the complex for a display in the municipal building.
While the familiar landscape has changed, township officials have embraced opportunities for buyouts and demolition to reduce the number of structures in harm’s way when the next flood hits. Another 23 buyouts are pending, Conrad said.
“As beautiful as the river is, it does change things and does change lives,” she said.