I believe that today, for the first time in decades, General Trexler had something to smile about. Most people never understood why three steps were near the lower entrance of Lehigh Parkway; they seemed to lead nowhere. This morning eight people joined a grass root effort to unveil, for the first time in decades, the structure I called the Boat Landing.
Buried under the dirt and grass were several more steps leading to a landing. Chris Casey was the first to arrive and cleared these steps and the first landing himself. A second set of steps led from the landing to the main landing on the creek. These second steps had a foot or so of ground and plants.
The quality and condition of the stonework is excellent, as was all our WPA icons. I will be polite and say only that it was a crime to have let this neglect occur. On the main landing the accumulated earth was two and half feet thick. The crew dug out the curving retaining wall several yards in each direction, and cleared off the top of the wall.
Eight people working four hours managed to reveal about one third of the landing at the bottom of the steps. It was a thrill to realize we were standing at creek's edge as the WPA architects had envisioned. I stood there often as a boy. There still remains a large portion of dirt to remove at the steps base, but you can now experience the Boat Landing.
The retaining wall and the landing continue for fifty feet or so in both directions. Unfortunately a huge tree has grown on the landing to the right, but the left appears reclaimable.
We who worked there today, hope to return and clear off the remainder of the dirt at the bottom of the steps.
Perhaps others will be motivated to clear off the remaining portion of the landing to the left. Now that might even be an idea for the City; imagine restoring an irreplaceable icon instead of buying something from a catalogue. I'm most grateful to all those who helped today, and will reveal their names with their permission.
I just wanted to thank you for organizing today’s cleanup at the “Boat Landing” in the Lehigh Parkway. It’s not often that one gets to help unearth a treasure while barely leaving home, but that’s exactly what happened today.
It was truly impressive what big difference a small group of people can make. I can’t even estimate the amount of dirt that was moved with nothing more than a few shovels and a lot of hard work.
We can only hope that the City and the Trexler Trust will become aware of this location and start giving all the great structures in the Parkway the care they deserve.
However, the best part of the story for me came after we all left. I got home and my daughter Lucy (age 7) wanted to know how things went. We hopped in the car and soon we were walking up to the stairs leading to the landing. The sun was shining, and the sunlight trickled through the trees and onto the freshly-exposed stairway.
Lucy asked if she could go down to the landing by the water and next thing I knew we were both there at the waters edge, standing on what had been buried only a few hours earlier and marveling at the beauty of the location.
We spent a few moments there - a father and daughter both enjoying something completely “new” to us (even though the landing is over 70 years old). We talked briefly about what was – and more importantly what could be again.
Thank you for making that moment possible, and I hope many others take the opportunity to visit the landing in the near future.
P.S. – After visiting the landing, Lucy and I walked further upstream and saw the remnants of the bridge to the island (near the water fountain). The remaining supports of the bridge confirmed what you had told me earlier about the island being much smaller years ago.
reprinted from October 10, 2009
I will be conducting a meeting on Sept. 6, 2011, dedicated to preserving the monumental WPA structures in our park system. The park department will send a representative. Please consider joining us, at 7:00 pm, in the lower level of the Allentown Library.