Jul 1, 2022

The Fountain Of My Youth

Just west of the Robin Hood Bridge is a fountain which quenched the thirst of my summer days. Built during the WPA era, it overlooked the creek. Although the water was turned off years ago, so now is the view. The weeds and assorted invasives growing are not a riparian buffer. Science says that a buffer has to be 25feet wide to be of any value. A reader described this thin strip of wild growth as neglect, masquerading as conservation. All it does is block both the view and access to the waterway. It denies our current citizens the beauty and experience for which the parks were designed. Although the Wildland's Conservancy would like you to believe that the Allentown Parks are there to be wildlands, in reality they were designed by landscape architects, to provide the citizens of Allentown with what Harry Trexler called serenity. He did also appreciate conservation, but for that he created the Trexler Game Preserve, north of Allentown. There are places in the parks which can accommodate the riparian buffer zones, without compromising the intended public experience of waterway view and access. Riparians could be created and maintained in the western side of Lehigh Parkway, between the pedestrian bridge and Bogerts Bridge. In Cedar Park, the riparian section could be in western side, between the last walking bridge and Cedar Crest Blvd. It's time that the parks were given back to the citizens of Allentown. They are not funded, or intended by our tax dollars and the Trexler Trust,  just to be a venue for the Wildland's Conservancy to harvest grants.  Let a child again giggle by the creek's edge. Let us get back our intended park experience.

above originally posted in 2013

ADDENDUM JULY 1, 2022: When the above post was first written, Pawlowski's recreation trained park directors farmed many actual park decisions out to the Wildlands.  Although their influence has waned somewhat in recent years, these faux buffers remain a negative legacy. The buffers are faux because Allentown's storm system is piped directly into the streams, under the buffer weed wall. Those weed walls in turn have become hotbeds of invasive species, such as Poison Hemlock.  Now, as the downside of those invasives has become obvious, the department is cutting the grass back toward the streams, but still leaving the creek edge overgrown, hiding view and blocking access.  To further complicate the situation, in the last several years all new tree plantings were done away from the creek, at the outer edge of the then wide buffer...The end result is now cutting the grass is more difficult, with all the new trees in the path of the mowers.


  1. Mike, just wondering could a citizen go in the park and mow the wall of weeds down? This could be a group effort like when you gathered a group to dig up the treasure that was buried on the bank of the little Lehigh creek.

  2. anon@7:42, the city has the equipment to do this if they so choose. I did several projects with the city's cooperation, but my activities at this point are limited to walking and writing.

  3. My Dad would play baseball with a group of men in the Lehigh Parkway.They had a local team..

  4. anon@8:16, I can think of several parks with baseball diamonds...Fountain, Jordan, Union Terrace, but none at Lehigh Parkway, especially at a team level.

  5. Speaking of the water fountain, the best thing about it was that (I believe) the fountain was always on - no need to press a button. This insured that you were always going to immediately get the coolest water even on the hottest summer day.

    It also was piped straight up in the fountain, a wide stream of water constantly yet gently falling back on itself inside the water fountain basin, which was certainly unique during my childhood in the late 60's and 70's.

    I would liken it to a slow running garden hose turned straight up without a nozzle. Even if I wasn't really thirsty, I'd always ask my parents to stop when we drove through the Parkway. It didn't matter that home was just a few minutes away, the fountain was special, and just another of the small things that made the Parkway something to visit.

    At least that's the way I remember the water fountain upstream, across the creek from what is currently the Road Runners building. I believe the one at Robin Hood functioned the same way, although you would know better about that one than I would.

  6. I lived just across Jefferson Street from the parkway entrance. I learned to fish in the Little Lehigh as a kid in 1966 and we sledded on the slopes there. The creek was one of our playgrounds. Hobos passed through the park and came up to our block to ask for food. It saddens me to read your tales of neglect.

  7. I grew up the street from Cedar Beach n the Rose Garden.
    We used to be able to walk through the creek, short cut to go to the pool! I don’t live in Allentown anymore but was just back fora visit.
    It is a shame how the parks looked and Muhlenberg Lake area!😞

  8. A little off topic, but indulge me for a bit and I'll bring it all together.

    I happened to be at the Allentown Post Office today (I'm a regular there), and parked on the side of the ASD admin building just off of Penn Street. Looked down that tiny road that goes from Penn Street down to the parking lot of the high-rise that's right across Hamilton from City Hall, and was disgusted by the amount of litter in the streets and on the sidewalks.

    This is by no means a new problem there, but it always irks me since it's right along the school district's main building and in sight of City Hall. It's a problem, and I doubt it's the only area like that looks like that in the city. I'm not sure if it's a property owner problem or a street cleaning problem, but it's a problem. An obvious problem.

    What bothers me most about it is that the two largest taxing authorities in the city (Allentown City Hall and the Allentown School District) can't recognize and solve an obvious problem that's right under their noses. And if they can't solve a simple problem right outside their doors, they are certainly not capable of more handling more complex issues like educating our children or maintaining our parks to acceptable standards.

    In the military, "attention to detail" was drilled into us on a constant basis. When Mayor Heydt (a former Marine) ran City Hall, he conducted weekly walks of different neighborhoods, and he brought along his department heads. All of them. If there was a problem property, street, or anything else, it was either solved on the spot or shortly thereafter.

    What I've seen in regard to attention to detail (on the easy stuff) from either the school district or city over the last two decades plus gives me no confidence in either institution.

    In short, the weeds are winning, and I see no improvement coming on the horizon.