May 2, 2017
Chris Kocher's Wildlands Conservancy Dilemma
Chris Kocher's letter to the editor, which appeared in The Morning Call on December 7, 2014, assured the public that the Wildlands Conservancy will respect certainly whatever decision South Whitehall Township makes about the (Wehr's) dam's future. It was of course just a public relations gesture, knowing full well how much influence his organization welded over the township. In reality, the Wildlands have written the township's Master Park Plan, which called for the dam's demolition.
When the Commissioners were presented with over 7,600 signatures, actually collected at the dam itself, they felt publicly pressured not to give the Wildlands permission to proceed with the demolition. However, they declined to proclaim the dam saved, or grant it historical designation. Likewise, despite Kochers gesture in his letter, he made no subsequent statement.
The Commissioners then decided to hold a public referendum on funding the dam's repair, believing that the public would never vote themselves a tax increase to save the dam. Once again they underestimated the public's regard for the beautiful historic structure.
Although Chris Kocher publicly stated that the Wildlands would back away from the dam's demolition if the Commissioners voted to save it, he never has afforded the residents of South Whitehall the same respect. On the contrary, the Wildlands has written the state, claiming that the dam is in poorer condition than the state inspection indicated. It is now morally incumbent upon the Wildlands Conservancy to respect the wishes of the public, as affirmed through the referendum. After writing his letter to the editor back in 2014, hopefully Kocher has the integrity to now publicly repeat his commitment to the residents of the township.
photocredit: K Mary Hess