(Updated 7 p.m. to reflect G. Fernandez remarks)
The Bureau of State Parks of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and National Resources sent a letter on May 21 to George Fernandez, owner of New Hope Historic Canal Rides, telling him to start operating the mule barge concession he owns along the historic Delaware Canal by June 5, or risk forfeiting his lease for the attraction.
Fernandez said on May 18 that he remained concerned about what he described as continued large-scale water leakage from the canal, along with a letter he had received from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) objecting to the use of mules for an amusement attraction.
Interviewed late Monday, Fernandez underscored his continuing concerns about “water gushing out of the canal 24/7.” Fernandez believes the water pump helping to fill the Delaware Canal at Centre Bridge is overtaxed, saying, “If that pump shuts off, the canal will be dry in two days. Forget about the barges stuck in the mud — all the wildlife will die.” He also believes that the Mechanic Street canal bridge, under which the barges would pass, is in “serious disrepair.”
“Let’s face facts,” said Fernandez. “Let’s fix it. We as a community and as a borough need to do it. But they want to turn a blind eye. Supporters of the canal are raising money to cover the $3,000 per month electrical cost of pumping water that is leaking and causing damage, and I’ll have no part of it.”
Fernandez points to what he says are virtual underground rivers gushing from the canal and beneath Havana and the former “Rita’s” building at 137 S. Main St. A visit to the the sewer opening there revealed a healthy water flow that surged at times from a drainage pipe.
Sewer opening near 137 S. Main St.
“Those leaks must be fixed now,” said Fernandez. “Sooner or later there’s going to be a collapse, and the possibility of a sinkhole that could swallow up cars and pedestrians is a serious safety issue.”
In his letter of May 21, Bureau of State Parks Assistant Director Ryan J. Dysinger said, “Presently there is no renewal agreement for the 2015 concession operation. The concession lease agreement dated September, 14, 2009 provides that renewals after the first five years will be offered entirely at the Bureau’s discretion. Last year,the Bureau offered a one-year term renewal with the expectation that the concession would be operational for the 2015 season, since the flood remediation work has been completed.”
Large sections of the Delaware Canal were damaged by three successive, devastating floods in the period 2004-06.
“The Bureau will extend one last opportunity to you to operate the mule barge concession under this agreement,” continued Dysinger’s letter. “You have until June 5, 2015 to establish concession operations in full compliance with the agreement, if you plan to maintain any continuation of the Agreement for the 2015 season.
“Failure to do so by June 5, 2015 will result in no further renewal of the agreement by the Bureau in the future,” the letter concluded.