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Remember: Allentown Park Log: Part 4- Lehigh Parkway

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Allentown Park Log: Part 4- Lehigh Parkway

There are at least four entrances to the Parkway that I am aware of. It really is an expansive city park. My friend Abby agreed to join me for my first excursion into the park. We agreed to meet at the bridge, which I took to mean the “main” entrance off of 15th street. She however meant this bridge:

As I was making my way down Lehigh Street to meet her where she was I had time to reflect on the Parkway’s size as I sat in traffic at every red light in the history of red lights. Among city parks, LP is definitely unique not only in its size but in its use and functionality. Trexler Park is a walking, biking, and strolling kind of a place. It seemed designed to fit a certain “park” functionality much like Cedar Beach does. South Mountain is a destination kind of a place, sitting back behind the south side of Allentown, without the familiar paths or white bicycle lines.

The Parkway’s uniqueness is that it captures all of those aspects and at the same time has its own completely different vibe. The geological history on display at South Mountain is available for viewing at LP as well. The defined fitness paths that make up Trexler are easily walked through the Parkway as well. Even the more mountainous trails of South Mountain are echoed by some of the paths in the Parkway.

On this, my first excursion into LP, I did not visit the Fish Hatchery or the Lenni Lenape cultural center. Those places are some of the most unique in our system of city parks. I did not visit the old kilns, the disc golf course, or the grand WPA staircase; all of that will be covered in parts two and three (and maybe four). Today I visited the Parkway to get my feet wet and take a good look around.

There were significantly more people here at the Parkway today than what I have seen at the other parks I have thus far visited. I saw walkers, runners, bicyclists, strollers, fly fisherman, high school athletes jogging, dog walkers and families spending an afternoon outside.

I had to move my butt out of the way of more than one runner and if you have seen me you know why but if you have never met me; let me say I am not in the best of shape. I should probably walk these paths more forcefully and more regularly.

As Abby and I walked through what I am going to call the mid-loop (From Bogart’s Bridge to the newly redesigned pedestrian bridge and back), I was struck at the parks ability to pass quickly from a trail in a deciduous forest to a path in a city park and back again.

It is truly beautiful in the Parkway. Not only with the wealth of nature but with the spirit of people. I encountered no unpleasantness on this journey and was greeted with a nod or quick hello by the folks that Abby and I walked by.

There was no litter visible on the paths or in the wooded areas and the only vandalism was an obscene drawing on one of the planet walk placards on our path. That planet walk is really informative and is certainly a fun way for children (and even adults) to understand the great expanse of solar system our earth orbits in.

History is very present in the Parkway. Bogart’s covered bridge is the first glaring example I saw; as well as a spring house and an old cabin. I will be writing much more about the history of the Parkway in the next segment but I need to mention here that despite a trip to the historical library and excessive Google searching there aren’t a lot of resources to find out what exactly the history of the LP is. Much more on that in part two…

Today was genuinely about taking a walk in the park and spending time with a friend away from the buzz of our society; which is a society that seems hell bent on furthering its distance from nature and plugging itself in more and more into a mechanical future.

It was wonderful to spend the afternoon in the Parkway and my feet are surely wet now.

(part 2 is coming soon.)



Blogger Michael Drabenstott said...

Lehigh Parkway is one of the nicest linear parks I've seen in the country. I've even heard people from California remark about how beautiful of a place it is and how lucky we are to have it in our backyard. The foliage is wonderful, but I've also seen many animals: owls, heron, fox and deer. Lehigh Parkway has my vote for the best public land in the Lehigh Valley.

May 20, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed all the pictures and commentary you had on Lehigh Parkway, having grown up in Allentown the Parkway was a wonderful venue of music & social gatherings in the early 70's. In the early 80's I ran 10 miles a day both upper & lower parkway. The weeping willow tree to date is still one of my favorite trees as I have sat under them in the parkway writing poetry. It is a special place indeed as well as Cedar, South Mountain, the Fish Hatchery, the Rose Gardens etc.

January 26, 2010 at 2:26 PM  

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