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Field project alters Firecracker course
The pending turf project at War Memorial Field not only has affected summer baseball played at the facility, but organizers of the Ephrata Firecracker Run have also been forced to make adjustments as the renovations are set to begin prior to the annual Fourth-of-July race.
Tuesday afternoon, Firecracker Race Director Merv Witmer confirmed that the race, which takes runners on a five-mile trek through the streets of Ephrata, will have a new starting and end point this year.
In previous years, the race has started at or near Ephrata High School and has ended in front of the bleachers at War Memorial. This year, the start and end will take place in Thomas Grater Park.
“It was one of those things,” Witmer said of the change. “There was no way we could start and end where we did, so we changed the course.”
Witmer said a few starting and ending points were considered before settling on the park, where runners will start and end their race adjacent to the Ephrata Playhouse.
“I had a couple options that I was thinking about,” he explained. “The first thing was pretty much staying with the course that we had but ending in the field across from the high school. That site wasn’t the best location for a lot of reasons. One, we don’t have electric there, but there are other issues. Then I got to thinking about it, ‘where would be a good place where we would have shade?’Where can we register under a roof?’ Then I thought about the park. I talked to the Rec Center, and they said that wouldn’t be a problem. We do have the bandshell down there so we can put the sound system in there, we can register in the pavilions, and there is shade. In a lot of ways, that’s been a bugaboo at (War Memorial) because there is really not a lot of shade. Here, we don’t need to worry about tents…you can get under a tree.”
Basically just the start and finish of the race was altered while the majority of the course remains intact (see entire course in box on page B-1). Instead of starting adjacent to the War Memorial Field parking lot and working their way to State St., runners will now head out Cocalico St. from the playhouse, turn right on Fulton, make another right on Oak before making a left on King to head back to State.
As for the finish, instead of taking Old Mill Road all the way to the War Memorial parking lot, runners will now make a right on Oak (in front of the school) before making a left back on King right past the pool before finishing near the playhouse.
Witmer said it was important to come up with the best possible solution while maintaining the integrity of the course.
“People liked the (Ephrata Rail Trail) in the race so I wanted to keep that,” he said. “And like I said, the beginning and the end is going to be nicer in a lot of ways because it’s in the shade. That will be nicer for the runners. Obviously, spectators will be a bit of an issue but they’ll just have to spread out along the course. That’s just the way it is.”
Witmer said he still anticipates a tough, challenging course.
“Oh yeah, it is a challenging course,” he said. “I don’t think this course will be any easier at all because you have to go up a little grade there on Oak to get to King, and when you go on King you are kind of in the middle of the hill on State. It’s going to be challenging.”
As for parking, with the high school basically off limits due to the construction, runners and spectators may park in the softball field and adjacent lot, as well as the lot by the playhouse.
The two-mile Fun Run course has been altered as well. with runners going out Cocalico to Fulton to Oak where they’ll circle the high school before coming back down the Oak St. bridge. They’ll make a right on Queen before coming back to the park via the small trail that runs by the creek.
The final big change is the starting time, which has been moved up from 8:30 to 8 a.m.
To register for this year’s race, sign-up online at ephratarec.com, or visit the Rec Center to pick up a brochure.