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Remember: Allentown Park Log: Part 3 - South Mountain

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Allentown Park Log: Part 3 - South Mountain

You can learn a lot of things about the history of the Lehigh Valley by visiting the South Mountain reservoir. The park is located on one of the bordering bands of the old Appalachian mountains that hold the Valley at its edges. There are the large boulders that are often found on hillsides and mountainsides in this area; the leftovers of the last glacial retreat.

Under your footsteps as you walk the trails that are remnants of old iron ore and jasper mining roads are undoubtedly the leftover arrowheads made by the Lenni Lenape who used to inhabit these hills. Jasper arrowheads made in this area of Pennsylvania have been found as far north as Maine.

The old mine holes are now filled with water and after parking alongside the automobile accessible road they are reached without having to travel any distance.

There is even a rope swing on the side of the lake for those feeling adventurous enough to swing in.

I did not travel to all the corners of this large park during my visit. The USGS lists 3 additional forest ponds in the area which I did not see. There are springs in the hills. South Mountain is also a reservoir and it is visible and accessible by automobile. The field certainly looks odd with those pipes sticking out from it.

Walking around the mountainside in spring you can see the deciduous forest literally exploding with life. Broad-leafed ferns were frequent undergrowth below the mix of budding birch, maple, and in one beautiful instance, pink honeysuckle. For a brief part of my journey I even had a frog as companion.

Sadly, the park is full of litter. I saw nearly as many empty bags of Doritos and discarded beer cans as I saw the gneiss rock that helps make up the hillsides. The lower section of the park near the entrance has a pavilion and a few picnic tables that are in disarray. The baseball diamond is grass covered and what once was a volleyball court seems to just be two metal poles sticking out of the ground.

It is hard to find the park itself. There was no visible signage on Emmaus avenue letting folks know where to turn to access the park.

South mountain serves a great opportunity to the city of Allentown and to its citizens. It allows them to instantly connect not only with the deep geological history of our area but with the current history of our growing forests. It was a real shame to see that much trash and not enough trashcans on the roads.

I remember my father taking me to South Mountain often growing up and I loved going. It felt like a journey into a deep forest but it was right in the city. Every time we left and I could see the white apartment buildings on the outskirts of the park, I was bummed. I left bummed today because of the litter.

We can not as citizens let places that look like this deteriorate:

In favor of playgrounds and wedding gazebos.



OpenID nosferatu318 said...

I love that rope swing so much i think i've gone off it every summer for probably the past five years. One of the other mineholes/lakes is on the other side of the one you took pictures of, opposite side of where you park.

May 9, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger mja said...

Andrew, you do a beautiful job in documenting the condition of our existing parks and your final comment is most apt. We have a commiment to that which we already have rather than to expand into vast playgrounds and wedding pavillions. We are stewards of an extraordinary park system and we have already dropped the ball on that- it's not too late to make an adjustment and recommit to that goal. The Allentown EAC must make that a primary goal.

August 3, 2009 at 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops! The last comment was made by Elizabeth, not 'mja'.

August 3, 2009 at 11:41 AM  

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