Jul 17, 2009

The Perfect Storm


In August of 1955, the Lehigh Valley got hit with Hurricane Diane, one of the most powerful to ever hit the area. The flood stage reached by the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers has never been seen before or since. The Allentown Parks weathered the storm fairly well. Unfortunately now, fifty four years later, our beloved parks are about to be destroyed by the perfect storm. In 2005, for the first time ever, we elected an outsider for Mayor. In 2007 he hired an outsider for Park and Recreation Director. This gentleman, well qualified in recreation, has no background in parks. In 2002, because the Afflerbach Administration was misusing Trexler Trust funds for operational expenses, those funds were frozen by Court Order and accumulated. In 2005 The Trexler Trust paid for a study of appropriate park projects, done by an outside firm from Philadelphia, for future guidance on how its funds might be used; also during this year certain members of the Trexler Trust became involved in the effort to elect Pawlowski. By 2008 the Perfect Storm had formed to assault the historic view of our Park System; an outside park director, an outside mayor, a huge amount of money and a politically supportive Trexler Trust.

The plans for Cedar Creek Park offend almost everybody who grew up in Allentown; most of us didn't learn of them until recently, long after they had been funded by City Council. They include a Destination Playground above Cedar Beach Pool and a Wedding Pavilion in the Rose Garden. Ironically, the Philadelphia Study, known now as the Master Plan, calls for less use in Cedar Park. The WildLands Conservancy will plant a Riparian Buffer Zone throughout the Park System. As these bushes grow higher, except for a few places, park goers will not be able to see or approach the creeks. As the Riparian Buffers grow wider, more recreational venues are planned in the remaining green spaces; including skateparks, additional parking lots, additional picnic pavilions and restrooms. The Conservancy refers to seeing the creek as the old fashioned English and French Park values. What the Conservancy fails to understand is that our parks are not wildlands, they are parks. What the mayor and park director fail to understand is that thousands of Allentownians treasure our old fashion park values. Although much of these projects will be funded by the Trexler Trust and other grants, the maintenance costs will be borne by the Allentown taxpayers. I and other old fashion types will continue in our attempt to defend our parks.

Addendum: Of the $3.8 million dollars Mr. Weitzel was allocated to remodel our park system, $482,000.00 may be spent on
professional services and consultation

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Think you forgot and correct us if we are wrong, did not a judge chastise Trexler Trustees for monies unspent creating too large a surplus? And for monies they allowed Afflerbach to illegally allocate for non-park related expenditures.

Anonymous said...

Well written, Mr. Molovinsky.

Anonymous said...

This should be in 18 point font.

"also during this year certain members of the Trexler Trust became involved in the effort to elect Pawlowski."

LVCI said...

Before the 'powers that be' go making all these decisions for us.. Conveniently in a few months... November's a' comin'... Good time to run it past the electorates in the voting booth.

That and few other things like the S. Mtn. logging and the walking trails.

By not doing that, these hand full of "deciders" should not expect people to just shut up & send the money.

If it went their way so-be-it. Then they'd have support and just perhaps us who are against this would have to step aside to the 'will of the people'.

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object."
~Thomas Jefferson~

Anonymous said...

This should be in 18 point font.

"also during this year certain members of the Trexler Trust became involved in the effort to elect Pawlowski."

July 17, 2009 8:16 AM

Can anyone say "Malcom Gross"?

michael molovinsky said...

lvci, i doubt the election will be a mandate on these issues. for instance, i thought the riparian buffer would be here and there throughout the parks. i learned from a presentation to city council that the riparians will dominate the parks, and only small access will be "here and there". will phillips and hershman make the parks an issue? if so, will the press give it enough attention? i'm convinced that the average allentownian will be very disappointed with the parks in several years, but like the river in egypt called denial....

Anonymous said...

Please keep us posted on the St. Mtn tree cutting.

Andrew Kleiner said...

With the disdain you show for "outsiders", I find it odd that the original park plans in Allentown were made by a man from Philadelphia hired by Trexler himself.

Anonymous said...

"By 2008 the Perfect Storm had formed to assault the historic view of our Park System; an outside park director, an outside mayor, a huge amount of money and a politically supportive Trexler Trust."
Michael it can't be said any better. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end of the Allentown Park system. Mr. Gross, now that you are an Allentown resident, how can you ,as a member of the Trexler Trust Board, agree to this dismantling of the Allentown Park system?
Bob Romancheck

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you at all on the playground but I think I am with you on the buffers.

Its a park, not a nature preserve.

Wading in the creek is a tradition that should be enjoyed by all Allentown kids at some point.

Where were these environmentalists when all the development occurred upstream in the burbs? The buffers would have done more good up there.

ironpigpen said...

That park will be an utter embarassment of ridiculousness if not an outright drain of finances when it is all done.

Why fix what is NOT broke?

Oh well, this train wreck is DESTINED to happen.

At least I get to keep wonderful memories of "Snow Bowls" played in days gone by.

And, at least you can say YOU did your best, Molovinsky.

I wonder what wonderful memories await future generations of (imported?) Allentonians in the Park formerly known as Cedar Beach

At least there will be diaper-changing stations for all (or at least, one can only hope!)

What a great country. What a great city.

Pawlowski for Mayor. What the heck, make it a life-time gig!

michael molovinsky said...

andrew, i supported the riparian buffer until this past wednesday when it was revealed that it would be installed in all the parks, along the entire creek lengths, with a few access points here and there. that changes the nature of the parks. it is also disingenuous of the parks department and conservancy for not mentioning that scale in their editorial. lastly, you are too young to become an apologist for the administration. perhaps there is some grant available for you. the amount of "professional service' money weitzel has available is staggering, especially when we are laying off 39 workers.

LVCI said...

michael molovinsky said... lvci, i doubt the election will be a mandate on these issues

What I had in mind was voting on referendums. Put it to the voters to decide for themselves.

LVCI said...

As far as Hershman, Phillips and the rest running for office... I've not heard a word on the budget, logging, the parks and how they would handle these. I hope they realize this isn't just about two weeks before election.

If they really are going to be effectual.. NOW is the time to speak up.

Phillips hasn't updated his blog since June 18th. Doesn't sound too motivated to me! Criticism.. I can do that! Solutions???

These budget adjustments must occur as soon as possible and up to this point there is only silence from the candidates. (Correct me if I'm wrong)

Giving them the benefit of the doubt perhaps they are waiting for the committee results to play out and what council comes up with. But waiting till elections are just 6 weeks before the budget MUST be adopted (12/15) is too late.

Andrew Kleiner said...

Molovinsky,

Yes, the riparian buffers will fundamentally change our parks. Without them however, the parks will change as well. More trees will die, wildlife habitat will be lost rapidly and the streams themselves will become threatened (not that they aren't already). The parks will lose their identity much quicker through erosion and plant death then they will with buffer zones.

michael molovinsky said...

andrew, let me apologize for the tone of my previous comment. as i said before i could support some riparian buffer, but not as the prominent creek bank treatment. if this partial use makes riparian useless, than we can do without it completely. we have done without it for 80 years. for severe erosion we could use the stone basket system. before the creeks enter allentown, for the most part they past through cornfields, let the conservancy buy that farmland and riparian it. let the conservancy worry about heavy metal around union terrace, which caused a cancer cluster at the elementary school 35 years ago. i doubt that there is anybody in the administration that knows that. let the conservancy speak out against the other park plans and the lumbering plan for south mountain.

bill weber said...

Molovinsky, DON'T YOU EVER SLEEP??
We have often spoken in the evenings. Yet I see the daunting morning hours that you frequently enter your blog-posts, and am stunned. Allentown has at least one truly dedicated watchman! All the more amazing because there is nothing in it for you. THANK YOU, Michael.

Anonymous said...

there is no lumbering plan for south mountain

michael molovinsky said...

bill, thanks for your kind words. when i defended the merchants against lanta, the apologists accused me of owning property on hamilton, i don't. when i defended the verizon workers against the parking authority they accused me of owning property on 7th st., i don't. I never had anything to gain from any position i've ever taken. on the other hand, allentown has been good to me and my family since 1893. It hurt that they threw such a good town away. it's a real shame to now throw away the beautiful park system

michael molovinsky said...

anon 2:20, i recently heard rumors of plans which are even more nefarious than lumbering. but here is a question for you. are we spending $7,500 in this layoff economy just to identify tree species growing there?

LVCI said...

Anonymous said... there is no lumbering plan for south mountain
July 17, 2009 2:20 PM

I beg to differ! And here's the proof (from TMC)... the contract


On May 27, the city hired Christopher Chronister of CC Forestry Services in Muncy, Lycoming County.

Objectives:
1. Conduct a 100% inventory within South Mountain Reservoir of merchantable timber and assess area for timber harvest potential and probability

Anonymous said...

Mike,

I have a simple solution. But before you you critique me, let you know that I represent the Little Lehigh Watershed Coalition and worked as the LCCD E&S technician for 7 years and I am a currently a municipal planner.

Simply stop mowing the areas along the Cedar and Little Lehigh Creeks where there is moderate erosion taking place and replant these areas in warm season grasses and wetland vegetation. Marushak and I did this on the downstream sections of Cedar Creek in Trexler Park where there was severe erosion. You do not need a $400,000 to tell you this. Because the mayor is new and and has a new parks director, they never asked the how the the other riparian areas were constructed. The riparian area in Trexler Park was one of the first designed in a municipal park in the nation to prevent erosion and it appears that the Allentown staff and Trexler park foundation has forgotten the importance of this project.

Like I said before, simply stop mowing along the banks and plant fiber rolls with wetland plantings and this will work. This is not brain surgery. 50-100 feet in from the eroded banks only. Nesting of geese in the warm season grass instead of stepping on the crap from eating the cool season grasses will also help.

Lastly, the mayor never communicated with their own EAC or other environmental groups about riparian areas or about the tree cutting on S Mountain. Simply relying on the Wildlands Conservancy is not always gospel. Their ideas are never cheap. Simply taking the natural resources that Allentown has to offer and squeezing every dollar out of them is not wise and signifies to others that the EAC has not been utilized for the purpose that it was originally designed to do- to recommend to the mayor and staff how to best utilize the environmental jewels of the city. Why the mayor and park's director have not utilized the talents and expertise of the EAC and environmental groups within Lehigh County is beyond me? There is a ton of expert advice in our county alone. The Little Lehigh Watershed Coalition was never asked about their thoughts on these issues.

If placing structural items in the floodplain is the mayors idea of a benefit to the park, his head is on backwards. Neighborhood playgrounds belong on brownfield properties, not in the floodplain. Please tell him to look at what happen along the Delaware Gap as a reminder of the cost of replacing damaged structures in the floodplain the last two years. Walking trails and grass ares are the only things that should remain in the the parkway.

Finally, the 1955 storm was not really the perfect storm. The perfect storm happened in the spring of 1996 when we had nearly 30 inches of snow melt in 2 days with a three inch rain. The Cedar Creek was out its banks for weeks and any stuctures now placed would have been damaged. The mayor was not around for that, but I sure was and it many of us were pumping our basements for months. Before the mayor gets his feet any wetter, he may want to have an environmental round table with the local folks before spending any more money on environemental consultants who think they have all the answers. He can save money rather then spend it. Thanks Mike S

LVCI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
michael molovinsky said...

mike s., thanks so much for the informative comment. i have a different memory of that riparian buffer planted in trexler park. i recall marushak tearing down the greenhouse to save money, then spending $750,000 on special plants for the buffer. somebody claimed at the city council meeting, after pattishals presentation, that native species have taken over all the exotic species planted there, and recommended, as you do, just stop mowing. your comment please? for the record, although i could accept sectional riparian as done in trexler, for the most part, i want to see the creeks. at any rate, it is inappropriate for weitzel to be making decisions without genuine public input. for instance, putting a survey up on the park dept. website does NOT gauge public opinion. after this south mountain revelation, the EAC should resign in protest of their puppet status. again, thanks for an informed comment.

Anonymous said...

To 4:17 post:

We too remember the flood waters that took the Little Lehigh all the way up the Robin Hood past the parking lot, on 1/4 mile onto the hillside leading the LP North.
The waters crossed the entire park roadway and onto the LP South
section as well, completing covering the bridle path, the road, and into the woods near
Stanley Vidmar.

Anonymous said...

Folks like to swim in Little Lehigh not to mention the fishing and canoeing. Those planned grasses will be trampled.

Anonymous said...

Some say Marushak owned a nursery that was utilized to purchase those Trexler plantings? Don't know if true or not. Where were those Trexler trustees during this
fiasco.

Anonymous said...

July 17, 2009 4:17 PM

The Little Lehigh went past the restrooms in Lehigh Parkway.

Anonymous said...

Andrew writes about wildlife being killed. Just what do you think will happen to all the wildlife living on South Mountain ridge if that land is timbered! A 10-foot wide swath of roadway is dug to allow equipment in. How many trees will that roadway take and how many animals living in, below and above these trees will be killed. And that's before the timbering even starts!

Anonymous said...

The exotic plants were killed because of the invasive species not being weeded out properly and the area not mowed properly in the first year-- A learning curve that the conservationists now know. The greenhouse had nothing to do with the plantings- the liability of the mowers and people falling off the eroded banks plus replacement of the walking bridges were to blame. Marushak had his own nursery of plantings at Trexler Park that he utilized in other city parks. It was a nice nursery for trees and ornamentals and saved money by keeping the planting stock in the park system. He used them mostly in the parkways and along the creeks. Most of the money went to grading the park to enlarge the floodplain to relieve the erosion near the the walking bridges and to replace the bridges and repave the existing walking paths. Alot of the money went into engineering/consultant fees for the floodplain enlargement and using bioengineering techniques which were the first area in the country to use to stabilize streambanks.

For the other posters, warm season grasses do not mind being trampled on. The purpose of those long stemmed grasses are to lay flat down during flood events to cover the exposed stream banks to prevent in stream erosion. Thats why when you go out west, you do not see eroded streambanks like you do in the east. Mowed cool season grasses do not protect the streambanks and exacerbate erosion problems. Simply not mowing cools season grasses along the edge of stream performs the same function as warm season grasses. Also warm season grasses promotes the nesting of birds such as grouse (which there is a short supply of)because their nesting habitat grounds are being constantly mowed. Just look at all the gas we can save by not mowing so much and the labor of somebody mowing at 30 bucks an hour just along a stream bank. Mike S

mja said...

Mr. Molovinski, If only 50% of our stream banks have buffers, than only 50% of our streams will be protected from erosion, sediment-loading and other degradation. Remember, this is not only a "high-value,cold water stream resource", this is our primary source water. Riparian zones protect our drinking water. Our park system is also our reservoir. We can have different opinions about landscaping styles, (you like English gardens, I may prefer French) but the science is unambiguous. That Allentown's streams are in decline is clearly established, not conjecture. Riparian buffers protect our city's extraordinary streams AND our drinking water. That buffers provide richer and healthier habitat for trout, birds, butterflies and for those of us who enjoy seeing these creatures, is value added. The vigorous discourse on these issues is an encouraging developement to the ongoing environmental conversation. mja

michael molovinsky said...

ms and mja, i can tell you're both very informed concerning the riparian buffers. in the case of the parkway, from what i've learned, it would have to extend at least from the creek to the bridle path, and even that would probably be too narrow; would they next want to do away with the bridle paths to widen the buffers? in trexler park, where the buffer has been taken over by invasive native species, it must be at least 8 ft. tall, and very dense. without being able to see and interact with the streams, we will end up with just recreation area's. since lehigh parkway is already now divided into two half's, on either side of the former metal bridge, perhaps the conservationists would settle for just the bogert bridge side being riparian. the robin hood half should remain a park with stream vista's

Anonymous said...

I will take any and all riparian areas offered. But let me tell one final note--- last week the Fish and Boat Commission shocked the Little Lehigh in Lower Macungie Township to determine if it is still worth stocking the upper reaches of the watershed. In 1977 there were 24 wild brown trout in my backyard. Last week they had shocked 348 wild brown trout of various generations.-10 times the previous counts. What does that tell you about riparian buffer areas along Spring Creek Rd? They work. It is critical that we restore the riparian areas where we can afford them and still provide enough vistas and recreation where needed. That is why a master plan for the parkway and cedar beach areas for restoration of riparian areas should be conducted ASAP by the Allentown EAC and that recommedation be given to the Parks director to implement. This would also meet the NPDES stormwater program requirements for the city. Mayor, let the EAC do its job and your job will be much easier.

Mike S

michael molovinsky said...

mike s, the first thing ed did when elected was invite 100 people as his transition committee, the second thing he did was ignore them. when the budget hit the fan, he formed a fiscal advisory committee before ignoring them. unless you are part of this kitchen cabinet, which meets saturday morning at the diner, your eac group is just another cover.

ironpigpen said...

Tell it like it is Molovinsky and you DO NOT NEED TO APOLOGIZE TO ANYBODY.

Politics as usual, that's all.

So, which companies get the contractual jobs for the Nevernever Land Park?

Who are their executives?

Who have these companies and their executive leadership been making campaign contributions (in Allentown), if any, to lately?

How about contributions in the past?

Who owes who a favor, political or otherwise?

What about inflated contracts and kickbacks?

(My professional background WAS in mortgage banking for MANY years - my cynicism exists for valid reasons - but I want immunity for in exchange for further elaboration on that)

Anybody exchanging brown paper bags of money in a Burger King Parking lot lately?

Will there be adequate baby-diaper changing stations?

What about FREE diapers?

If no free diapers, then --- WHY NOT???

Sounds discriminatory...

-----------------------------------

TO ALL 'OUTSIDERS' WHO FEEL THE 'DISDAIN' AS WELL AS THE NEED TO LECTURE THOSE WITH THE REAL HASH MARKS ON THE SLEEVE:

Our city WAS NOT a shambles twenty years ago. Your revisionist historians will change that, of course, but -

WE KNOW.

WE KNOW who and what screwed it up. WE KNOW.

Attack. Marginalize. Smear. Do your worst. (The DNC can and will gladly help you coordinate an overall strategy to squash dissent permanently)

WE STILL KNOW.

ALWAYS WILL, TOO.

Even after the loser park is complete!

PS - Have fun maintaining that!

Keep snapping pictures of picnic tables littered four days after the holidays are over, Molovinsky.

Houses of cards are built to crumble.