In what should be a time for fiscal caution, Allentown and its Parks Department is embarking on an ambitious plan to create new maintenance intensive attractions in Cedar Creek Park.
Before I elaborate on the details, let me make a confession. I believe the Allentown parks system was perfected years ago, and we need only be good stewards of that perfection. I believe our primary benefactor, Gen. Harry Trexler, envisioned the parks to be a passive retreat for the enjoyment of nature.
Although Allentown has administratively combined Parks and Recreation into one department, we must cherish our open spaces. What we really need is more supervised playgrounds and basketball courts in center city.
The new project includes additional pavilions at both the Rose Garden and the picnic grove below Cedar Crest College, complete with lighted walking paths. The primary attraction is what is being billed as a ''Destination Playground.'' This playground would be the biggest in this part of the U.S. and also be completely handicapped accessible.
To facilitate this accessibility on the sloping land above the Cedar Beach pool, the land would have to be excavated flat. The plans call for accommodating more than 500 children, including special restroom and changing facilities.
Although the concept of Allentown having a playground designed for children with disabilities is most commendable, the problem lies with the scale of the project. An existing playground should be retrofitted for the purpose of serving our own children who have special needs. The maintenance expectations and liability issues of a mega destination would seem to be expenses and risks that Allentown should not assume at this time.
I attended the council meeting when this proposal was approved. It was an emotional meeting, complete with parents of special needs children conveying their hardships with existing conventional playgrounds. The enthusiasm and good intentions of the Parks Department also was contagious.
There were a few opportunities for public input, but for the most part, residents have only recently learned of these plans through a recent article in The Morning Call.
Many people share my perception that we are fixing things that are not broken; worse yet, we are creating things that will require a great deal of maintenance and expense at a time when we can least afford it.
Allentown and its parks system have a special bond. Perhaps these ambitious plans should have been put to public referendum; at the least they deserve much more public deliberation. In his will, Gen. Trexler gave the parks and money to maintain them to ''the citizens of that city (Allentown).'' The mayor and council should delay this plan until those citizens have a chance to be heard.
I HAVE REPRODUCED THIS OP-ED PIECE TO ADD IT TO THE RECORD OF MY PREVIOUS WRITINGS ON THIS SUBJECT, AND AS A FRAME OF REFERENCE FOR FUTURE POSTS ON THIS TOPIC. I HAVE RECEIVED A LARGE VOLUME OF OFFLINE FEEDBACK CONCURRING WITH MY SENTIMENTS.