Post by: Elissa Garofalo, Executive Director
Just two short weeks ago, the D&L was honored to host Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Dunn’s interest was two-fold. She wanted to see first-hand Lehigh Valley Greenway’s projects that connect the green in the Lehigh and Northampton County and meet municipal leaders. The Secretary was joined by Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund, Division Chief Diane Kripas and Executive Assistant Peter Spadaro.
Because Secretary’s Dunn comes from ancestors who worked on Pennsylvania canals, I’d like to think the highlight of her visit was on Thursday August 3rd when she toured $1.3 million improvements in Easton’s Hugh Moore Park – a place that’s near and dear to my heart. But as you continue reading, you will find every stop of her two-day visit was, in its own right, a highlight.
Since last year, Hugh Moore Park has undergone an amazing transformation. Positive change like what occurred here takes enterprising collaboration. To make things official, comments were made by key partners including Secretary Dunn, Easton Mayor Sal Panto, Northampton County’s Stan Rugis and D&L Chair Mike Drabenstott. The formalities took place beneath the Parks’ new welcome arch.
Afterward, we shed our jackets and took a walk to see the upgrades that include major bridge repairs to access the Park, pathways, a playground, a bandshell, parking facilities, a bicycle skills course, signage and landscaping. Funding came from DCNR ($225,000), Northampton County ($275,000), Hugh Moore Charitable Trust ($550,000), the City of Easton ($250,000) and technical assistance by the D&L.
To jump back to the beginning of the visit, Wednesday’s tour began at Lehigh Gap Nature Center, part of a new alliance of 23 nature centers creating new ways for people to explore, enjoy and engage with local waterways. Dan Kunkle and Color of Nature program leaders described learnings and challenges in bringing diversity to conservation efforts.
With a light rain coming down, the tour’s second stop was at the Slatington Trailhead. Community advocates gathered as Mike Kutkiz, a DCNR funded Circuit Rider and Director of the Northern Lehigh Recreation Authority joined D&L Program Manager Brian Greene to present Trail Town Steering committee recommendations, priorities & goals.
A drive north took us to Jacobsburg State Park where Environmental Center Manager Rob Neitz welcomed the Secretary and staff with an impressive gathering. They received an overview of 13 years of Bushkill Township’s conservation accomplishments by Jason Smith and Brian Harris. Northampton County Open Space Coordinator Bryan Cope then spoke about progress to develop the Two Rivers Trail, the 9-11 Trail and the Scenic Wild Delaware River Geotourism Program.
Day one ended on a spectacular note with a visit to the Ballas Tract, 90 acres of farmland that was recently conserved with the help of Northampton County. There, with the help of a Lehigh Valley Greenway mini-grant, Bushkill Township created a one mile trail around 35 acres of recently planted wildflowers. My photos are striking, but you must visit the site to really take in the beauty. Conservation never looked so exquisite!
Hosting duties came to an end Thursday afternoon at Allentown’s Waterfront Development. With Zac Jaindl’s help, we re-assembled the team who worked on the 2016 Tiger Grant application for this mixed-use campus. Zac and Mark Jaindl, assisted by David Green, led the discussion and overview of this highly anticipated development that will reveal the City’s very own ‘boathouse row’ and co-locate the D&L Trail alongside the proposed Riverside Drive. Among attendees were Rep. Pete Schweyer, Lehigh Valley Planning Director Becky Bradley, Lehigh County Director of General Services Rick Molchany, Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza, David Kimmerly and Bettina McClure representing the City of Allentown. Emily Olearczyk represented Congressman Charlie Dent. DCNR’s Lorne Possinger and D&L Trail & Steward Manager Lauren Golden participated.
Secretary Dunn finished her tour by helping to present the Lehigh Valley Foundation’s $50,000 Spark Grant at the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary.