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Remember: Interview with Greg Weitzel: What's Next?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interview with Greg Weitzel: What's Next?

Yesterday, I had the chance to sit with Greg Weitzel for a meeting about what is going on in our parks right now and what is being planned for the future. For those who do not know, Greg Weitzel is the director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Allentown. I want to thank Mr. Weitzel for taking the time from his very busy schedule to meet with me.

I opened our session by asking Mr. Weitzel what was next on the agenda for his department now that the Cedar Creek renovations are in full swing. He told me that the next major park renovation project will be taking place at Keck Park. They will be moving to clean the park up, renovate the paths and roadways as well as the parking lot.

“Keck is a very exciting project. We have just finished a series of public meeting and we are getting a lot of great feedback from the community.” Mr. Weitzel also informed me that the working plans will be finished soon and showed me a few preliminary drafts of planning maps.

He described working out the plans for a new Lehigh River Trail that will connect Canal Park and Kimmet’s lock. I interjected and asked him if the city was implementing any of the trail connectivity study. He said “The trail study is still in its planning stages. We are not implementing any of the major additions of any of that plan. There are things we can do now that can help with park connectivity but that plan is still a plan.”

I asked Greg about plans for Jordan Park and the other parks that are in disrepair in Allentown at this moment. He told me that “These problems have been here a long time. We need to figure out the best way to manage these problems. I see the problems, we are making changes in park management and we are concentrating on one park at a time. We are overwhelmed with work, and we are working hard. Jordan is a major project and it has got to be next. We need to get people involved with the project. It is a heavily used and underappreciated park. It is going to be huge.”

I asked if there were plans on the table to deal with the invasive species problem in our parks, especially the Japanese Knotweed infestation at Trout Creek Parkway.
“ There is a strategy for natural resource management being developed. We need to maintain, preserve and maximize existing beauty. We are working to manage cost, develop forest health surveys and get more education out to citizens and park employees about the removal and control of invasive species. We need an educated staff and volunteers to take care of these problems. The knotweed is going to have to be taken care of.

The riparian installation at Cedar Beach is a pilot project that will help educate and set an example. We have the responsibility to set the example for other municipalities. We can’t fix problems upstream but we will fix them where we can.”

Mr. Weitzel informed me that there are plans currently underway and quotes being taken for repairing the WPA staircases in Irving Park. He told me he considers it a priority moving forward. “There are also plans to repair the staircase at Fountain Park and that staircase will be connected to a revitalized green space attached to the playground at Jackson Street. We are making sure the lime kilns in our parks are being preserved properly too. Renovations are on the way for Stevens Park as well. We have a lot of green space outside of center city and we need to get some down there.”

Greg made it clear that there is a lot to do and it can’t be done all at once. He then explained the work being conducted at the Fish Hatchery.
“ The Trout Nursery has been in our parks since an initial partnership between watershed groups and the city of Allentown in 1949. It is visited by 4-5,000 people a month and that figure is based on the sale of fish food. The Nursery project is exciting. It is a real opportunity to educate. It is the oldest continually operated trout nursery in Pennsylvania. A generator has just been replaced that up until recently suffered numerous power outages and caused a lot of manpower to be used. We are saving a lot of manpower just by putting in a new generator. The wooden 2X4 net system will be replaced with a modern net system. The netting is a huge cost right now. The labor and materials needed to replace the wood every couple of months is too much. The #11 pond has been broken for years. Everything is being repainted. Everything is being made cost effective and efficient. There are signs that will be done by Interpretive Solutions, who did our signs in West Park, that will focus on the history of the nursery, the life cycles of the fish and will really be a major educational asset.”

Thanks again to Greg Weitzel for his time.


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