The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - New "Native Plant" Trail at Sand Island Model Site

An update from D&L Outreach Coordinator Dennis Scholl: 

My job as manager of the volunteer D&L Trail Tenders became even more rewarding this past week as I watched a dedicated crew of 10 Lehigh Valley Chapter volunteers build a native plant trail adjacent to the D&L Trail at the Sand Island model site in Bethlehem. This is a site the LV Tenders have been working on for 15 months. The completion of the trail and next week’s planting of nearly 2,000 native plants is the culmination of a lot of hard work. I watched 74-year-old Gerry Weiner of Nazareth and fellow retirees Joe Felker, John Cook, Ken Baatz, Charlie Derr and Gary Ritter plot the trail and secure the ties to the ground with lengths of rebar. It was hot and sweaty work, but no one complained a bit. The only break anyone took was to sip water. People using the trail yelled “thank you!” Those two words never grew old on anyone.

“The epitome of volunteerism”

A fellow from Bethlehem who bikes the trail every day stopped by on Tuesday morning and spent the next three days working with us. He was a great help. He even brought a flexible ladder that we propped up against trees to cut dead vines we couldn’t reach otherwise. On Thursday, a Lehigh University student stopped to ask if he could volunteer an hour of his time. We put him to work right away. He said he’d be back. I believe him.

I guess it’s just very heart-warming to see people come together to reach a goal. Our goal at Sand Island was to create a site where the public could be educated about the negative effects of invasive plants on the environment. Since most of the D&L Trail in the Lehigh Valley is bordered by an invasive jungle, we could have chosen a site anywhere. But we settled on 500 feet of real estate where Monocacy Creek enters the Lehigh River at the eastern tip of Sand Island.

On June 24, 2007, the Lehigh Valley Trail Tenders held their first cleanup. A dedicated core group formed and people worked throughout the winter. The City of Bethlehem took notice and responded very positively to our requests for help. They hauled out cut brush, brought backhoes to move logs that littered the site, had a large colony of Japanese knotweed sprayed, and donated 40 cubic yards of wood chips for our trail. Next week the city is bringing compost so our plants get a good dose of nitrogen to kick start their life in a new home. The whole project has been one of cooperation: volunteers with volunteers, and volunteers with municipal government.

An invitation to visit

I hope you have a moment to visit our site. If you’ve never been there before, you’ll be impressed by the very picturesque view of the Lehigh River and old Bethlehem Steel plant on the other side. Imagine not being able to see the river or the steel plant because they were obscured by a solid wall of green. That’s what the site was like before the Trail Tenders took charge. Why, it was even hard to get a breeze along the trail because the plants were so thick. Not anymore.

By the end of fall, our Learning Center will be complete and we’ll be offering history and nature programs. Next spring, the site will be alive with plants that haven’t been present there since the Lehigh Canal was built in 1827. And all of this is due to a chapter of volunteers who set forth on a common goal and pursued it with a very vigilant work ethic. To me, it’s the epitome of volunteerism. I hope it catches on elsewhere along the D&L Trail. Heaven knows there’s plenty of room for more projects.