- Explore the Corridor
- Signature Programs
- Partner Resources
Volunteers are the backbone of Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Without volunteers, our goals of connecting over 165-miles of D&L Trail, preserving the industrial heritage of our five county National Heritage Area, and promoting our region’s vast opportunities and diverse communities would be a much taller task.
For our second installment of Faces of the Corridor, we are highlighting Nancy Thatcher and her small but mighty volunteer group, Lehigh Township Rails to Trails.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Nancy remembers spending time at her family’s small summer cottage near the tidal estuary of Long Island Sound.
“It was much more rural than the suburbs, so I enjoyed exploring there. Sometimes, my parents would take us out of the city to explore some of the State Parks; with my brothers I would just wander around. And my mother, she loved to garden; that’s kind of how I got interested in the outdoors and gardening and walking.”
Nancy went on to become a Biology Teacher, moving to Pennsylvania in the 1970s and working as she grew her family. At the time, she didn’t have much room to volunteer. But she did eventually manage to find her way to Lehigh Township Historical Society (LTHS), where her journey with Lehigh Township Rails to Trails (LTRT) truly begins.
According to Nancy, LTRT was initially a group within LTHS. A member had decided he wanted to do something with trails – “and this was when the D&L Trail was probably first really coming into its own” – which was how Nancy became involved with the Historical Society. As time went on, the group grew and eventually broke off as a separate entity, becoming Lehigh Township Rails to Trails. Sticking around through a few changes in leadership, Nancy is now President of the group.
During her time with the group, LTRT has managed to accomplish quite a bit. Much of their work on the D&L Trail can be found north of Cove Road (MM 87), near Slatington and Walnutport.
“We had found a concrete phone booth that had been used by the railroads that was kind of in bad state and through an eagle project and our own work we had it restored…we painted it and, with DLNHC’s help, created two interpretive panels. One next to the phone booth, and one right across about the Treichler’s dam.”
Another silent success was achieved in Walnutport with assistance from the Walnutport Canal Association.
Barely recognizable with its foundation laid bare, is an old locktender’s house way down at the end of the D&L Trail spur – formerly Lock 25 of the Lehigh Navigation. There was nothing that could be done about the state of the house, but LTRT thought the space could still be used. They put in another interpretive panel there telling the history of the house and created a small picnic area.
LTRT is also active in the community. They work with DLNHC as a group during Trail Tender activities and have frequently helped with tabling events. Some of you might recognize their booth at the Walnutport Canal Festival. They offer free bicycle parking to those traveling the D&L Trail or just stopping by from around town.
They also offer Winter Walking Events. A member of LTRT had suggested that the group walk in town during the colder months when the trails aren’t as pristine. They started it casually at first. “And then I, being a former teacher,” Nancy added, “had to get more involved.”
What started as a reason to get out during the pandemic, quickly grew into an enjoyable walking series. Their most recent walk was in Palmerton, and even though it was “freezing cold,” people still joined. Nancy recalls the people who had grown up in Palmerton that walked with them; how they added to what she had researched and made the walk personable.
“People are glad to have something to do, especially in winter. These walks promote healthy living and a little bit of history.”
Although Nancy was the one initially nominated, she wanted to stress that it is her whole group that deserves to be nominated.
“It’s nice to be recognized for volunteer work,” she says. “It’s nice to be recognized for the work you do. Although I realize, there are many many many volunteers who deserve to be recognized as well.”
She mentions Dean Hower, specifically, who she nominated a few years ago to be an Outstanding Citizen of Northampton County. And then he nominated her right after that, earning her the award in July 2022.
Dean serves as Vice-president of LTRT. It was Dean, Nancy says, that really spearheaded the work with the phone booth and installing the bench right beside it. He’s also been extremely active with the D&L Trail Tender program. In his own time, he has his own shop selling and repairing bikes.
“The Lehigh Township Rails to Trails organization is a small but mighty group of, mostly senior citizens, who have worked hard to keep sections of the D&L Trail improved. Members, Nancy Thatcher and Dean Hower, have volunteered for the DLNHC as Trail Tenders, Ambassadors, and the Half Marathon; I’m sure I am forgetting something as they have done so much for our organization,” said Loretta Susen, DLNHC Executive Assistant. “They are great ambassadors for the DLNHC. We also have often shared a space for National Trails Day at the Slatington Trailhead where we support each other.”
LTRT’s current focus is on Indian Trail Park in the Pennsville Area.
“It used to be an amusement park back in the day. The Historical Society rebuilt the building there and that’s their museum, but over on the property was a small, wooded area. One of our members suggested that we make like a nature path through the woods.”
During this project, LTRT has extended what had been a fisherman’s path along Indian Creek, made a quarter to half mile loop trail, put in a bench, added birdhouses to some of the trees, and started introducing more native plants to the area. They are working with a local vendor in Slatington to place interpretive signs on the trees.
Additionally, they recently wrote an article featured in Lehigh Township’s biannual newsletter about invasive species. According to the article:
“You might also find us having a meeting at a local restaurant at 6:00 PM on the third Thursday of each month. We’ll be at the Slatington Trailhead on the first Saturday in June as well. We hope you will join us at a meeting, in the woods or on our fall walk.”
To learn more about Lehigh Township Rails to Trails, you can visit their Facebook page here.
This article was written as part of the DLNHC Faces of the Corridor campaign. If you know someone or group that you think should be featured, visit this page to learn how you can nominate them.
To read our first blog about Charlie Derr, click here.