Jun 27, 2016

Forsaking General Harry Trexler


In 1928, Harry Trexler hired  Philadelphia's prestigious landscape firm Meehan and Company to design the park system for Allentown. When the depression struck the next year, the plans were put on hold. However, when Roosevelt announced the WPA in mid 1930's, because of those plans, Allentown was shovel ready. Thousands of men worked throughout Allentown's new parks, creating masterpieces that normally would have taken fifty years to build, and cost untold millions of dollars. Allentown ended up with an iconic park system, virtual picture postcards, which lured tourists here for the next 75 years.

In 2006, Ed Pawlowski became major, combined the park and recreation departments, and started hiring directors from out of town with a background in recreation. Although, not one thing was done for the traditional park system, we started buying whole catalogs of playground equipment. We have been named Play City of the country by the playground equipment manufactures association. Through my advocating, Karen El-Chaar from Friends Of the Parks, was able to secure a grant from the Trexler Trust to restore the steps at Fountain Park. I was able to prevail upon the current park director, Lindsay Taylor, to allow the masons to also repair the stairwell at Union Terrace. The Parkway wall in now being repaired, but only because it's necessary in able to open the road.

Park strategy, aside from recreation, is now being decided by the Wildlands Conservancy. The Conservancy has been instituting current environmental fashion, even if it's not site specific to Allentown. Consequently, the park streams have become riparian buffer zones, even though the storm runoff is piped directly into the streams, and bypasses the buffers. The WPA ornamental dam has have been demolished, even though the streams are stocked from General Trexler's fish hatchery. Even the fish hatchery dam, which regulated the amount of water entering the fish ponds, was demolished, resulting in a massive fish kill.

What is most discouraging in my battle to preserve the icons of our traditional park system is that the Wildlands Conservancy is being funded by the Trexler Trust.  Although,  sacred cows and good old boy networks working together is nothing new, how ironic that the Trust is funding the main reason that Harry Trexler's park designs are now being ignored and neglected.

For decades the park system was a favorite scene on souvenir postcards from Allentown.

2 comments:

george schaller said...

Thank you MM for your undieing work on Allentown's park systems bestowed upon the public for the beauty?! I do have one question however is said trust cover maitience in there allocation allocated a specified, not for the destruction of the beauty?!

michael molovinsky said...

george@12:22, i will answer your asked and unasked questions.

to my knowledge, the trust by charter only contributes to the "improvements" or new features of the park system, but not to the everyday maintenance. who decides which is which is beyond my pay grade. beyond that, the trust supposedly does not mandate or even suggest park policy. the trust is not easy to question or communicate with. an organization can submit a grant request at a certain time each year. otherwise, statements can be submitted to the trust's secretary with a request that they be brought to the attention of the board. although i have submitted such a statement i never received confirmation that it was indeed distributed, and i never received any feedback.

in previous questions you have indirectly inquired about mal gross and the trust. i suppose that if mr. gross was inclined to defend the traditional park system, such as i advocate on this blog, he would have the influence and leverage to do so, despite the policy i cite in the paragraph above. however, i can assume that he is much more diplomatic than I, and involved in the larger community. therefore, the conflict i see with the Wildlands Conservancy he apparently views much differently. no other questions on mr. gross will be hosted or answered; i prefer to address policy, not individual people.