July 4 fireworks rearranged

By on March 27, 2019

For a while, it looked like 2018 could have been the last year for Fourth of July fireworks in Lititz Springs Park.

At the March 26 meeting of Lititz Borough Council, organizers for the Fourth of July festivities presented their plans to save the day and save the annual tradition of fireworks being held in the park.

“This is outstanding,” said council member John Bear, as the rest of Borough Council approved the “work in progress” plans to keep the fireworks in the park for the 201st year since 1818.

That plan involves moving the audience seating far to the rear of the park, forming an L-shaped area near Lititz Springs Pool. The fireworks would be set up in the general area where the audience used to sit at the western edge of the park.

Jeff Rinehimer, president of the Lititz Springs Park Board of Trustees, pointed out that keeping the fireworks in the park was a priority for the park board, Fourth of July organizers and the community.

“If we don’t do this, the fireworks will probably go away,” Rinehimer said.

With that in mind, lots of brainstorming led organizers to the current plan. First, however, they had to check with the fireworks experts to determine if moving the locations for the actual display and the audience would work.

Chris Hopkins of Celebrations Fireworks attended the meeting to explain the requirements for the fireworks. Hopkins has been responsible for the awe-inspiring fireworks in Lititz for the past 10 years.

There are requirements for space to safely detonate fireworks. Based on the size of the shells, there is a circle that must exist without buildings or people to make sure they are safe. As Hopkins explained, for each inch of shells, it is necessary to have 70 feet of space. Hopkins plans to use five-inch shells, which means that a diameter of 350 feet must be clear to set off the fireworks.

By using the area that was previously the seating area for the crowd, they are able to get the required 350 feet. Hopkins added that he needed to downgrade the size of the shells by one inch. In the past, the shells were six-inch shells.

“To me, I’ll notice the difference, but the audience probably won’t,” said Hopkins, adding that he plans to make them just as spectacular as ever.

There will be some compromises necessary to pull things off for fireworks in the park in 2019, said Kellye Martin, who is chairing the Lititz Fourth of July event. One of those will be closing Maple Street during the fireworks. That’s because it lies in the circle of safety that is needed to set off the fireworks.

Chief Kerry Nye isn’t thrilled about the idea, but sees no other alternative. As he said, “It’s the only thing we can do.”

Maple Street would only be closed during the fireworks, and would reopen as soon as they were done. People coming in the evening for the fireworks would park near the Lititz recCenter and enter the seating area to the rear of the field. There would be a total of three entrances to the park area, but the front would be closed off before the fireworks for safety reasons.

The entire area for fireworks staging would be fenced in with snow fencing and other barriers. Extra security personnel would make sure people did not enter the staging area.

“It’s really a matter of changing the layout, using smaller shells, closing Maple Street, and adding the extra gate that will make this possible,” said Martin, adding that education of the public will be critical to pulling it off.

Everyone who has heard the plan appears to be on board. Fire chief Ron Oettel has reviewed the plan. Warwick Emergency Services Commission director Duane Ober estimates that the new seating area should be able to accommodate a crowd of 17,000. The Fourth of July fireworks in the park usually attracts 12,000 and 15,000 people.

Lititz Springs Park lost its staging area with the redevelopment of the former Wilbur Chocolate factory into upscale condominiums, apartments, a hotel and retail complex. That area, across the railroad tracks from the park, was purchased by Oak Tree Development Group as part of the 11-acre Wilbur property sold by Cargill Inc., which is currently under construction.

In 2018, the fireworks were set up as usual before construction began. What could have been the last fireworks in Lititz Springs Park has been saved by a group of people dedicated to keeping the tradition.

There is one caveat.

Fireworks will be set off in the former seating area and fireworks shells will be downgraded by one inch in 2019. In the past, the shells were six-inch shells.

“We have to pray it doesn’t rain,” said Martin. “We can’t have rain.”

Rain was the concern of Rich Motz, of the Lititz Springs Park board, and not just because of the Fourth of July fireworks plans.

Flooding in the park has been getting worse and worse, said Motz. Last week’s 3-inch rain caused the park to flood, surrounding the gazebo and filling the park with water. Every time it rains the park floods.

Since last fall, when weeks of rainy weather flooded the park, on some occasions spilling into North Broad Street, the flooding has been a big problem.

“We can’t sit and wait. It will keep getting worse,” said Motz, who asked that Lititz Borough Council work with the park board to develop solutions to the flooding, such as detention basins and stormwater planning. “It’s getting to be an emergency situation.”

Long ago, the area that is now Lititz Springs Park was once a swamp, and the park board and the borough will be trying to come up with ways to prevent the park from returning to its swampy origins.

Borough Council approved several events that will be held in the park in coming months. The Fun 101.3 Food Truck Frenzy is set for May 10. The Camporee in the Park scouting event was approved for April 5-7.

Other borough events include the May 27 Memorial Day Parade, the Lititz Historical Foundation’s Spring into History Festival on June 1, the Lititz Lions Patriotic Parade on July 3, the Sept. 21 Pretzel Twist 5K run, and Venture Lititz Second Friday events through the end of the year.

A request for a half-marathon event that would span Lititz Borough, Warwick Township, Elizabeth Township and Penn Township is on hold after Penn Township turned it down. The route has not been fully established and planners for the Schuylkill River Runners Run/Walk asked for a waiver to extend the deadline to present their proposal. Lititz Borough denied the extension, which requires 75 days notice.

In other business, Laura and Robert Meisl were granted approval to demolish a one-story building at 145 Forney Drive. One wall is collapsing, the wood frame structure has termites, and exterior walls are cracking. The couple want to tear the dilapidated frame house down and rebuild a one-and-a-half story home on the same footprint with two small additions, a garage and geothermal heating. They assured the borough that the house would fit into the neighborhood. Lititz Borough planner Elijah Yearick supported their plans.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *