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.