Nov 24, 2014

South Whitehall's Transparency Issue

As an advocate for Wehr's Dam and traditional park systems, I was slightly disturbed when South Whitehall's Commissioners congratulated their park director, Randy Cope, for winning an award for the Covered Bridge Park Master Plan. That plan recommends that the dam be demolished, and that the Jordan Creek be lined with a riparian buffer. Both those agendas are the business of the Wildlands Conservancy, which participated in the plan's formation. Visitors to Allentown's parks in the summer are distressed to have their access and view of the waterways blocked by the unsightly weed walls. The notion of replacing the vista of Wehr's Dam with just a wall of weeds shows no respect for history or beauty.

This weekend I learned that dam demolition and riparian buffers are family business for Randy Cope, whose father Scott Cope, is a director at the Wildlands Conservancy. I also learned that the former park director of Allentown, John Mikowychok, had met with the Conservancy, and was bought on board with dam demolishing before he even began working in his Allentown position. This explains how he endorsed demolishing two small dams on the Little Lehigh, before he actually ever saw them. Although I never underestimated the influence of the Wildlands Conservancy, I didn't realize that they were actually inside and running the park departments.

It's disappointing that after attending township meetings for five months, nobody in the administration had the courtesy to inform either myself, or the other advocates, with a potential conflict of interest disclaimer concerning their park director. In light of these new revelations, it is now apparent that Wehr's Dam must be added to the Historic Overlay District, if it is to be preserved.

6 comments:

monkey momma said...

This is unbelievable. I am astonished, but then again...it seems to fit the back room dealings feeling I have about the Wildlands Conservancy's dam destruction agenda.

I really do not think people understand what a riparian buffer is. It really is a wall of weeds. Cedar Beach looks gross now. That park would never have been developed around the creek if the original design included huge swaths of weeds.

The park's beauty is not a trivial matter. Wehr's Dam (like Cedar Beach) is not a natural habitat or a wildland. At all. It is a manicured park, and there is nothing wrong with that. Its primary purpose is providing enjoyment for its human patrons. A wall of weeds is not what anyone wants there - trust me.

Speaking of Cedar Beach, that weed wall has been there a while now. Are there any demonstrable benefits in the water quality? (I'm betting no, since the sewage problem has not been addressed and THAT is the real problem.)

Anyways, the inside connections get deeper and deeper here. I think the dam destruction is a done deal unless South Whitehall gets off their collective arse and does something. Presented with a 37(?)% tax hike next year and a wall of weeds at their most beautiful park, they may take notice after it's all been said and done. Now is the time to act.

michael molovinsky said...

@6:51, it's indeed sad that the commissioners would even consider doing away with the photo setting shown above. allowing the wildlands to proceed with their planning for the dam's destruction only emphasizes the need for it's inclusion on the historic list.

Dreaming of Justice said...

Pathetically predictable. You know what, I think we should *gift* that unsightly monstrosity of a suburban faux-ranch house office complex with a huge dump-truck full of cattails and mulch and milkweed stalks. Let them see how pretty it all is!

michael molovinsky said...

@9:49, it seems as if the advocates must bring more people to the meetings. so far, in spite of over 7,000 signatures, the commissioners are still allowing the dam's fate and timetable to rest with the wildlands conservancy.

John Mikowychok said...

"I also learned that the former park director of Allentown, John Mikowychok, had met with the Conservancy, and was bought on board with dam demolishing before he even began working in his Allentown position. This explains how he endorsed demolishing two small dams on the Little Lehigh, before he actually ever saw them. Although I never underestimated the influence of the Wildlands Conservancy, I didn't realize that they were actually inside and running the park departments."
Mike, your statements above are false. I never met with the Conservancy before commencing work with Allentown on 4/15/2013. Looking at my 2013 calendar: My first meeting with them was Friday, May 10, nearly a month after commencing employment.

And, Wildlands was involved because they worked (prior to my employment) with the City in developing the grant applications to PA-DCNR, PA-DEP, and other funding partners. They were the lead entity in coordinating this funding, as well as the engineering of the dam removals and restoration of surrounding embankments.

There were no back-room deals, here -- only cooperation between the City and a Conservancy with similarly-minded environmental goals. -- JPM

michael molovinsky said...

john, glad to print your clarification. in a like manner, here's mine. placing the broken robin hood dam rubble around the stone piers of the robin hood bridge depreciated the bridge's beauty. old timers at the fish hatchery claim that removing that dam was responsible for the unprecedented fish kill this summer. the riparian buffers are useless because the storm sewers empty directly into the creeks. the parks have been damaged by the conservancy and your cooperation with them.