- Explore the Corridor
- Signature Programs
- Partner Resources
By Kimara Hutton, Guest Blog Writer
I don’t know about you, but when I am out for a walk or a ride on a beautiful D&L trail next to a serene canal breathing in fresh air and enjoying the outdoors and beauty around me, who is behind the scenes making this resource possible for all to enjoy is not in the forefront of my mind. While I am aware of the historic importance of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and my own area’s of involvement and contribution, I wanted to know more.
So, I started exploring the D&L website which is very informative, interactive and extensive, which further peaked my interest. Needing a volunteer day for my current class in the Historic Preservation Program at Bucks County Community College, I saw a perfect opportunity to hopefully get an inside glimpse of the D&L headquarters.
On July 30, I headed down to the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor headquarters at Hugh Moore Park in Easton. A perfect home for the office headquarters being on an island accessible by a one-lane stone bridge, surrounded by the Lehigh River and Lehigh Canal near the forks of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers and canal systems.
The D&L offices are in the 14,000 foot Emrick Technology building built in 2006 housing the National Canal Museum on the first floor and the D&L offices and state-of-the-art archival storage facility on the second floor. This building sits next to the Lehigh Canal Towpath, near the Josiah White II Canal boat, and usually ready for canal tours and themed dinner cruises, and the Locktender’s House and museum. Near the main entrance of the building is a new playground. Plus, a welcome center which also serves as a rental area for visitors who want to kayak, paddleboat, canoe or bike the trail while they are there. Pollinator gardens dress the area outside the entrance, not only providing beauty but helping to ensure the future of pollinating insects and the plants themselves. A large portico offers plenty of space for socially distanced eating and relaxing.
I first spoke with Elissa, who started in 2000 at the D&L, hired by the then executive director and taking over that role after his retirement. She gave me the history of the D&L and her role as Executive Director which is to oversee the organization as a whole and focus on keeping true to their mission. She maintains relationships and communications with donors, corporations and alliances, especially the William Penn Foundation, DCNR, and the National Park Service. Elissa is also the chairperson for Heritage PA.
Under her leadership The D&L moved out of the Federal Commission program into a nonprofit 501C3 status giving them the ability to grow and flourish. The D&L also merged with The National Canal Museum to work as one entity and are now in one building in Hugh Moore Park. After we met in her office, we took a walk down the canal towpath to the Locktender’s House and museum, not open at this time, and to a bridge that looks over the area where the Lehigh River feeds into the Lehigh Canal. We walked back to the main building on a path through the woods next to the river.
While eating lunch outdoors and socially distanced, I met with Claire Sadler, Deputy Director. Claire heads the conservation aspect focusing on land conservation, environmental education, green infrastructure, and outdoor recreation. She also leads Lehigh Valley Greenways, a state sponsored program formed to link communities with outdoor resources and improving public health, natural resources, and green infrastructure. If that were not enough Claire oversees the other departments and their staffing, coordination of joint programs, grant management, and is aware of what is happening, who is doing what and when, and “rights the ship” when needed as Lauren Golden admiringly stated.
Lauren manages the preservation, conservation and adaptive reuse of the trail system and its attributes. She also plans and manages the many projects up and down the D&L trail system – all 165 miles of it – and is often on the road visiting these project sites, (which totals 23 open projects at the moment).
She is mindful of the historicity of these areas and that the trail is a “living, breathing, changing pathway”. Lauren also manages the Trail Alliance Ownership Council coordinating with the involved land owners.
Later, I took a tour of the National Canal Museum with Visitor Services Coordinator, Pam Thomas, who was asked to give me the impossible task of a “quick” tour. The museum gives a thorough and interactive look at the time of the the Lehigh and Delaware canal system and life on the canal. There is artwork, models of boats and canal towns, educational interactive displays, and a special exhibits room features revolving exhibits relevant to the area including the canal, industrial revolution, local history and arts and culture.
A really impressive small museum with a knowledgeable staff and a gift shop. For sale in the shop is Tales of the Towpath, a book written by past D&L Education Manager, Dennis Scholl, an educational program published in 2008, which is part of the curriculum for fourth and fifth grade students in 10 corridor school districts. The educational program there hosts the classes for a day as part of the curriculum and engages them in various activities including tour of the museum, treasure hunt, and canal boat rides name a few. The museum and Hugh Moore park provide an amazing, informative, educational, and fun experience for all ages.
I then met with Martha Capwell Fox, the Historian and Archives Manager, who took me into the impressive, state-of-the-art, temp controlled archival room that has electronic moving storage shelves – each shelving unit holding a linear mile of storage! This area houses a library for staff and members, including books, maps, papers, CDs, DVDs, film, photographs and slides, even glass lantern slides, artifacts, and many other types of historic documentation and items acquired from various sources pertaining to, not only the canal and towpath but local history, heritage, industry, and everyday life. As Martha put it in reference to archives, “it’s either us or the trash” a phrase common in her field. Martha also helps create and maintain museum exhibits.
Besides being able to talk with the D&L team members I did, I also met others, including Brian Greene, Director of Trails and Conservation; H. Scott Everett, Facilities Manager; and Penman Neel, Finance and Personnel Manager.
Everyone I spoke to that day was warm, welcoming, and so impressive . They are also excited for, and committed to, what they do for this heritage organization and all that it does and has to offer. There is a great sense of pride here and a mutual respect and admiration among the staff for each other and what their contribution is to the D&L. I learned a lot about how a multifaceted heritage site works and the huge amount of work that goes into it by the people who make it all happen. I felt honored to have had this opportunity and thank everyone for taking time out of their busy day to meet and talk with me.
*All face-to-face meetings done while either wearing a mask or socially distanced. All photos taken by Kimara Hutton and while socially distanced.