The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Closing the Gaps
Our first Zoom meeting

Like our colleagues across America, we at the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor have been challenged and chastened by the events of the past few months. In online team meetings, we’ve asked ourselves how we could best serve our community during the pandemic and now during a period of national unrest. Thankfully, we now have a variety of digital channels through which to connect to our community. 

Over the past few months, we’ve developed video reading series and online fitness and trail advocacy challenges. Now, with a digital town hall this coming Monday, we will begin a series of community conversations about ways we can better address the historic and present-day inequities of our region and better serve the diverse communities along the Corridor.

By creating the National Canal Museum’s “Adventures Aloud” video reading series, we’ve brought our beloved Immersion Days staff into the homes of children throughout the Corridor. We’ve shared books such as Tales of the Towpath and Bridgetender’s Boy, making PA and NJ canal history available to more households than ever before. We’ve also provided the digital version of Tales of the Towpath to area educators, who’ve gotten into the spirit by reading it in their online classrooms dressed in 19th-century canal garb.

Image preview
Fourth-grade teacher Stacey Polgar teaching Tales of the Towpath online

Another new video series, “Journey through the Corridor,” features Immersion Day lessons. We created a National Canal Museum at Home web page to collect these videos as well as a series of at-home activities such as coloring pages and scavenger hunts.

Two digital challenges have both provided ways for people to stay healthy and safe during the pandemic and celebrated the increased appreciation for trails as an outlet for exercise and communing with nature.

The May 2 virtual Get Your Tail on the Trail 165-mile challenge kickoff began with a “Walk with a Doc” video from our partner, St. Luke’s, and a BINGO card encouraging people to try new forms of exercise and develop healthy habits. With weekly St. Luke’s health and fitness videos and workouts, as well as a series of virtual D&L bike rides, we provided positive ways to stay active and safe both on the trail and at home. This year, we saw greater program engagement in the kickoff month than ever before. 

Tail on the Trail Virtual D&L Bike Ride

Our D&L Trail Challenge, which launched on June 6, encourages trail users to explore and advocate for the D&L Trail through weekly themed prompts. Participants who share pictures of their D&L outings on our Facebook and Instagram pages will be entered in a drawing to win a gift certificate to a Trail-Friendly Business.

Now, as we take the first careful steps toward reopening, we’re reflecting on what remains to be done. We’re grateful for the technology that has allowed us to keep connected as a team, and proud of what we’ve learned as we pushed ourselves in new ways. But we’re also recognizing the ways we’ve fallen short. In addition to creating more geographical connections by adding more trail miles, we must find ways to connect the gaps between the D&L and communities we’ve not served as well as we should have.

Ordinarily at this time, we’d be dispatching our team to area events to speak to people throughout the Corridor about our work. One of the most important aspects of this outreach is hearing from our community about where we’re succeeding and where there’s room for growth. That’s why this Monday, June 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, we’ll again be going digital: for an interactive town hall meeting.

Titled “Closing the Gaps: Connecting the D&L Trail, Our Neighborhoods and Communities,” our session will include remarks by D&L Executive Director Elissa Garofalo and Board Chair Michael Drabenstott. We will also welcome special guest Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Resources. Please join us for the Facebook Live event.

Updated 6/16/20: A recording of the Town Hall is available here: