Improvements planned at Wayne Township fishing pond

Keep fishin’

SARAH SMELTZ/THE EXPRESS A full house at the Wayne Township building as locals gather to discuss the status of the finsihing pond and future moves.

McELHATTAN — The fishing pond for children and handicapped people at Nature Park in McElhattan will remain open as officials develop a plan for “improvements.”

“We are taking a look at making the habitat environmentally better,” Department of Environmental Protection Liaison Dan Vilello told a crowd of about 70 people Tuesday morning.

“This is a very important issue at a beautiful facility. There has been some discussion, and there has been some misinformation,” Vilello said. “We think in a different format it could work.”

The meeting was called by Wayne Township supervisors and residents who were angry when they learned last week that the fishing pond and deck built for children under age 12 and handicapped people was in danger of being shut down, presumably due to some permit violations.

The group’s ire was quickly quelled by Vilello and Tom Shervinskie of the Pennsylvana Fish and Boat Commission, who explained there were some problems, but there are ways to make it better and keep the fishing pond open.

“While the discussion is still in very early stages, the fishing pond will remain open to visitors as officials organize, gather information and put a plan in place,” Vilello said. “That plan may require the pond to be closed temporarily in the future, but it is impossible to put a timeline on that at this moment,” he explained.

“There are better ways to do this, the pulling process. What we see now is a small dam that produces a lot of sentiment, that is not a positive attribute to the stream,” said Shervinskie. “It isn’t going to help the fish that are put in there for everyone’s enjoyment. There are ways we can add some structures to do exactly what’s out there, or something very similar in many ways, and enhance that. We will put together some plans, get some ideas and go from there.

“We see no drawbacks, but it can be enhanced,” he added. “There’s ways to do it better than what is out there right now. It will be a little bit of give and take. It is a major park, there is some really good information out there. What you have right now is a dam collecting sentiment. It has gotten shallow there. It may or may not last water events, and then something is going to happen to it down the road at some point anyway. So, if we can put some structures in there that we often use in streams, to create tools that will continually transport senitment… but still maintain that fishing area, that viewing area, that relaxation area that is out there for everyone to enjoy.”

The Nature Park facility has been there since 2015, and was first permitted in 2016, specifically for fishing by youngsters and the handicapped. Just last week it was learned that this year’s permit application had been rejected, putting residents up in arms and asking those in the know to attend yesterday’s meeting and explain what was going on.

Vilello said cost would be a concern, as it would be an expense of the township, but Shervinskie noted that “there are a lot of opportunities for grants,” including Growing Greener, Act 13 and Chesapeake Bay funds, along with other money available for such projects.

Shervinskie also noted that maintaining the genetic integrity of the wild trout in the stream is of concern, as stock trout are being mixed with wild trout.

“It’s all positive,” he said. “We should be able to get it all done and protect that wild trout population.”