Nov 18, 2014

Allentown's Misplaced Park Priorities

It wasn't that many years ago that Allentown was nationally known for it's park system. This distinction resulted from the foresight and wealth of General Harry Trexler. The general had an elaborate system designed by distinguished landscape architects in 1928, but when the Depression struck in 1929, the plans were put on hold. By the mid 1930's when Roosevelt's New Deal was formulated, Allentown had shovel ready plans. Up to 4,000 men labored throughout the park systems building irreplaceable stone structures. The completed iconic park system became a designation with a national reputation. Move ahead to 2014, and we have a city hall with no institutional memory or knowledge of these resources. We have a succession of park directors from out of town with a background in recreation. The current park budget again doesn't have one dollar earmarked for WPA restoration.* Not unlike Detroit, we will be building a Kaboom Playground, a strategy for impoverished inter-cities, utilizing public planning and participation in construction. While the Kaboom project is the emphasis of the park department, the top wall of the double staircase leading down to the amphitheater at Union Terrace is crumbling. Another winter of wet and freezing may well destroy another monumental structure which we could never replace. Where is Allentown going?

*For the first time since I began advocating for the WPA, this year's budget has $25,000 allocated for an engineering study of the Fountain Park Steps.  Although this hopefully will be a beginning, I believe that the funds would be better spent on a stone mason. The top of the wall at Union Terrace and St. Elmo Street, and the missing treads on the Fountain Park steps, could be replaced with no engineering necessary.

Obama helping to build Kaboom Playground

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