Freemansburg Canal Education Center

October 2nd, 2012

The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, the Borough of Freemansburg, and the Bethlehem Area School District have partnered to create the Freemansburg Canal Education Center (FCEC) at the Lock 44 canal complex in Freemansburg. A public tour of the site is being offered on Saturday, October 13 at 12 noon. Parking is available behind the Willow Grove Hotel on Main if the Freemansburg Trailhead lot is full. Here is the link for directions to the trailhead: http://delawareandlehigh.org/index.php/towns/freemansburg/.

The FCEC is being developed as a field trip site for fourth-grade students learning the D&L’s “Tales of the Towpath” social studies curriculum, which is being taught in more than 70 elementary schools in the D&L Corridor. (“Tales of the Towpath” received the 2011 Outstanding Social Studies Program Award from the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies.)

Field trips initially will be offered on a pilot basis to five Bethlehem elementaries in October 2013, along with some public programs. The FCEC offers an outstanding variety of historic structures that will allow students to gain a better understanding of the importance of canals and their role in the rise of industry in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1850s. BASD teachers will develop standardized lessons and activities that will bring the “Tales of the Towpath” curriculum to life. The curriculum is based on a popular children’s book of the same name authored by D&L Outreach Coordinator, Dennis Scholl. (Click here to buy a copy.)

The noon tour on October 13 will include stops at historic Lock 44, the Lock 44 locktender’s house, the restored 1829 mule barn, the Geissinger Grist Mill ruins, and other site features.

Work at the site began in August and will continue through the rest of 2012 and much of next year. D&L Trail Tenders have been involved along with youths from Lehigh County Dept. of Juvenile Probation and Scouts from Troop 302 in Bethlehem. Archeologist Judson Kratzer worked with the Scouts to get accurate measurements of the Geissinger Grist Mill ruins and is in the process of making a scale map of the site. Architect Christine Ussler of Bethlehem is donating her services to provide an architectural blueprint of the locktender’s house as it appeared when it was constructed in 1828-1829. Our hope is to have the house restored to its original appearance by 2015.

Fritch Fuel Company of Bethlehem has provided funding for a full-size fiberglass mule – the “Fritch Fuel Mule” – and harness set that will be used in lessons inside the restored mule barn, which will be classroom space for other lessons as well. Other businesses in the Bethlehem/Lehigh Valley area have committed to replacing the locktender’s house roof, removing dead and fallen trees from the site, and providing cement for repair of some sections of the lock.

The field trips will take advantage of the October timing by incorporating lessons based on fall harvests. The presence of the Geissinger Grist Mill enhances that option. Food preservation techniques will be demonstrated and children will have an opportunity to sample butter, apple butter, and other 1850s fare made on-site.

The entire project is volunteer-based. The D&L will be recruiting and training volunteers to serve as costumed field trip hosts and docents. There is also a need for people to demonstrate the food aspects of the trip: making apple butter, cream butter, sauerkraut, chow-chow, chicken pot-pie, and other food children in the 1850s would have eaten.

The site itself is far from ready and there are several major improvements that have to be made before field trips can be offered. The biggest need is a set of retaining walls at the entrance area, which right now is not suitable for groups of children to use. We are hoping that local companies offer help through the donation of materials and services. The D&L is a 501 c3 non-profit organization and all services and materials for the FCEC project are tax-deductible.

The same situation occurs with some of our other goals: a concrete floor in the mule barn; a wooden walkway in the chamber of Lock 44; split-rail fencing near the parking lot and mule barn; canopies to protect students from inclement weather; the removal of several large piles of soil and rock; the building of steps for children to walk down to the shoreline of the Lehigh River, where ecology will be discussed.

The FCEC offers a wealth of educational opportunities, but a tremendous amount of support and work is needed to keep the project moving. So far, so good, but we are now entering a stage where equipment and materials and yes, cash, become important to the project’s success. If you or someone you know can offer support, please get in touch with Dennis Scholl at 610-923-3548 x225 or dennis@delawareandlehigh.org. Volunteers also should contact Dennis or talk to him at the October 13 tour. We hope to see you there, and we’d love to hear your comments and questions on this blog.

30 miles to New Hope

September 11th, 2012

Written by Jay Marsden

During my summer long journey along the D&L Trail I have covered well over 100 miles, visited countless towns along the canals, and eaten way too much pizza. But so far, it’s been an amazing experience and with only three entries to go I’m beginning to feel slightly nostalgic as I drive past sections of the trail I explored earlier this summer on en route to the next trailhead.

This week’s voyage was a unique one.  It took me from Tinicum Park, just outside of Upper Black Eddy and the Frenchtown Bridge, to the very out-of-the-ordinary town of New Hope. On a sunny Wednesday in August I pulled a hybrid comfort/ road bike from the trunk of my car into the beautifully green land that is Tinicum Park.  Before I hit the trail I learned that you can also play Frisbee golf here or attend a polo match if the mood strikes.

From my experience thus far along the trail, New Hope can be somewhat compared to Frenchtown NJ, the town I visited last week.  Imagine New Hope as Frenchtown’s older sister who went to college, traveled the world, and came back to settle along the Delaware River with all of her friends. In other words, Frenchtown and New Hope are somewhat similar in location and activity.  However; Frenchtown gives off a much quaint small town vibe where as New Hope radiates with a bold individuality and confidence.  More on downtown New Hope later, for now let’s talk about the trail that leads there.

The ride from Tinicum Park to New Hope and back is roughly a 30 mile loop, one of the longest rides I’ve done this summer. However, along the way I encountered a couple speed bumps, literally. Around the town of Lumberville the Delaware Canal tow path was damaged by flooding in the past years. This does not mean it is impassible, yet it does mean that unless you’re on a mountain bike its difficult to maneuver around the rocks and the roots. Even I struggled on the thin tired hybrid I was riding so I opted to cruise on the road for a few miles, which led me into Lumberville.

In Lumberville I stumbled into the Lumberville General Store, which was one of those places that I found by complete accident. I needed some air for my front tire so after seeing a sign that said “Bike Rentals Available” I decided to try my luck and ask to borrow their tire pump. Once I pushed open the thick wooden white door I knew I had made a good choice. The smell of something sweet and freshly baked began filled the air while two fully outfitted cyclists where sitting at a small table sipping espresso. I felt like I left the country for a moment. This place is a gem, for sure, and after conversing with the sweet woman behind the counter (who gladly let me use their bike pump) she directed me to cross the pedestrian bridge in Lumberville and to continue my journey on the other side of the river, in New Jersey.

This ended up being good advice even though the Pennsylvania side of the trail begins to smooth out again just down the road near a local quarry and soon rides through some beautiful residences and directly along the Delaware. The Jersey side was surrounded by tall trees and thick brush most of the way to Lambertville NJ and New Hope.  If you’re considering looping between the D&L Trail and the D&R (Delaware and Raritan) Trail in New Jersey you can follow the many signs along both trails that map these loops out at bridge crossings along the Delaware River.

After riding along the D&R Canal Trail in New Jersey for a few miles I finally arrived in Lambertville, NJ, which is just across the river from New Hope. I crossed the six span bridge, similar to the one in Frenchtown, and started cruising through my destination. I quickly noticed the individuality and style I mentioned before. The houses surrounding the downtown area are quite large and the downtown area itself is filled with more specialty stores than I could count. Everything from designer clothing to exotic ice cream shops are laced between open air bars, fine restaurants, and burger joints. The town was flourishing with all different types of people even on this Wednesday afternoon and although all sorts of delicious smells were filling the air and it was definitely nearing lunch time, pizza wasn’t going to cut it today. I had to find something as unique as the town I was in. I opted for a gyro from Tahas of New Hope. This new place located directly next to the New Hope Visitors Center treated me well and fueled me up for the 15 mile ride back to my car in Tinicum for a good price. Similar to Jim Thorpe and  Bethlehem, New Hope is one of those rare PA towns that add a  shines a new perspective on  the historic corridor we all live in and, personally, I’m thankful for this twist.

Historically speaking, there is one last note I’d like to make before I finish this entry. There are a some really well preserved locks along the Delaware Canal and this section boasts a few of them. Also, the site where Tohickon Aqueduct once existed is still partially memorialized. Although it was demolished in 2000 a re-creation exists along this portion of this trail. Aqueducts once provided the Delaware with sufficient water for its commercial canals that were too far inland from the river.

If there is one thing that I have learned this summer from my internship here it is that historic artifacts take all shapes and sizes and can be found basically almost everywhere. Whether it’s right around the corner or directly next to the river all of these objects once played a significant role in the working of the canals and nearby industry. For example, although it seems like it’s hidden among all of the colors and store fronts in New Hope the Delaware Canal State Park, the Locktender’s House Museum, and Lock # 11 are just above Main Street.  Be sure to stop in for a glimpse of our history – they should not be overlooked.

Restoring Native Plant Communities in the Corridor

August 31st, 2012

CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE. This series of photos from our work at the Weissport Trailhead shows the removal of invase Tree of Heaven, seeding of native grasses and wildflowers, and restoration of native flora.

What is an “invasive plant”?

Invasive Plants are known as “non-native” species that come from Europe, Asia, and even parts of North America that damage the native ecosystems which stop the growth and spread of native vegetation. Invasive plants can be trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, or flowers which do not have natural enemies. This is one of the main factors in their uninhibited growth and colonization. The most aggressive spread rapidly and choke out native vegetation and alter the landscape.  The most notable seen across the Corridor include Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum or Fallopia japonica) and Tree of Heaven (Alianthus altissima). Click here for more information.

For information on specific invasive plants, refer to the following fact sheets:

Characteristics & Impacts of Invasive Plants

Japanese Knotweed fact sheet

Tree of Heaven fact sheet

How can we control them?

Invasive plants can spread by seed and by vegetation including rhizomes, runners, shoots, tubers, and bulbs. Control methods are determined by the landowner based on species, size of infestation, and research guidelines. Research shows it is important to understand thecharacteristics and means of reproduction of the invasive plant species to guide control methods.  Invasive plants should be removed and replaced with native species.  For more information, please see either this National Park Service information or PA DEP information.

How can we restore native plant communities?

A native plant include ferns and mosses, grasses, sedges, and rushes, perennial and annual wildflowers, woody trees and shrubs, and vines which covered “Penn’s Woods” when the first settlers arrived. There are over 2,100 native plant species known in Pennsylvania.

It is important to landscape with native plants to rejuvenate native plant communities which grow commonly across Pennsylvania.  Part of the ecological restoration process is to remove invasive plant species, control erosion and soil compaction, and plant with native species. Select appropriate native plants for the right environment and site conditions to enhance the ecosystem and landscape.  Click here for more information.

Venturing Out of State

August 21st, 2012

Trail Blog #7

Written by: Jay Marsden

In the town of Upper Black Eddy I began the next leg of my journey along our corridor. Here I found a small peaceful park office and a secluded parking lot, surrounded by lush forest.  The Delaware River was just across the road. With the sun shining on this beautiful August day I mounted my single speed mountain bike and started cruising toward the PA/NJ border en route to a town that I had heard good things about, Frenchtown, New Jersey.

To reach Frenchtown from the Delaware Canal State Park Office, I followed the D&L Trail south along the Delaware Canal Towpath.  This travels through lush farmland filled with beautiful homes, bringing you to a small residential area and the beginning of the short road ride toward the Frenchtown Bridge. Some of this land is private property and it is beautiful for sure, so of course I respected the border of the trail.  I passed an old lock and dam where you will see a classic red covered bridge at Uhlerstown. On your left the trail splits off next to a sign that talks about the looping system between the D&L trail and the D&R trail in New Jersey (I’ll talk about this in my next blog) and this is where the turn for Frenchtown is located. At this point I made a left hand turn onto Route 32 which led me toward the Frenchtown Bridge and into New Jersey.  This is a story book ride along an arrow straight road through farm lands and across the Delaware River on a beautiful and iconic steel truss bridge.

After riding through these farm lands and walking my bike across the expansive six span bridge above the Delaware River I entered into the Borough of Frenchtown, a beautiful place filled with historic significance and a an unusual small town culture. Although this area is not exactly along the D&L Trail or even in Pennsylvania for that matter, it is seriously worth mentioning. Founded in the mid 1750s this town developed its name when the land was sold to French-speaking Paul Henri Mallet-Prevost, a Swiss fugitive from the French Revolution. Between Prevost and other French speaking settlers the town became known as “Frenchtown”.

Today, this photogenic town is filled with all different types of unique specialty stores, great food, and what might be some seriously fun small town festivals such as Bastille Day and the first Green Fair that is slated for this September. However, one aspect that gives this town its true beauty is the Delaware River itself. The Delaware is one of the largest rivers in the east and well suited for all sorts of recreational activities like flat water kayaking, tubing and trout and shad fishing.  Its great width makes it quite impressive to look at. The features I just mentioned, along with the beautiful architecture and the town’s definitive bridge, lets Frenchtown send out some wonderful scenic vibes.

It’s true.  New Jersey is not part of the D&L Corridor but we are good neighbors and we want our visitors to enjoy the rich offerings along our trail.  So… here’s a bit more on my day in Frenchtown.

As I rode into town I found the main street to be quite small. Just about 4 blocks at the most and because I was there on a Wednesday afternoon I expected a quiet town. This place was like a well kept secret that even the locals weren’t in on. Everything was either closed for the day or by three o’clock. So when I rode in around noon there was the usual midweek bustle that small towns like this have but by three o’clock, the whole town was wrapped up! This didn’t bother me though because I had already had two great slices of pizza from Galasso’s Pizzeria and although I couldn’t quite understand the man who served up my slice of margarita and a second with broccoli, tomato, with ricotta cheese I’m pretty sure he appreciated my business.  And I was fueled up for the ride back to PA.

My next planned stop was the local bike shop called Cycle Corner just a few store fronts away from Galasso’s but sadly they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

This was a bummer because I wanted to write about some local riding secrets and group rides for my readers this week.  But that was a no go. If you are interested in finding out more about the riding in this area (I know I am!) stop by or go to their web page at www.thecyclecorner.com.

With the bike shop closed and the rest of the town slowing down I took notice of a few other spots that seemed to me like prime small town hang outs. The first place that caught my eye was The Bridge Café. A quaint establishment just across the town’s bridge that boasted premium ice cream, espresso, baked goods, and what appeared to be finer dining – all with plentiful outdoor seating next to the Delaware. Sounds good, right? Check this place out if you ever swing through Frenchtown and while you’re at it don’t miss out all of the other unique clothing and specialty stores on Main Street. Keep in mind, this town is an early raiser and a weekender.  If you’re from my neck of the woods (Carbon County) it takes about 1-1/2 hours to drive to this section of the D&L, which offers a whole new perspective to the 165 mile route.

Hugh Moore and The Forks of the Delaware

August 13th, 2012

Trail Blog #6

Written by: Jay Marsden

Do you know who Hugh Moore is? He has a park named after him in Easton so obviously he was someone important, right? I didn’t and obviously my guess was that he had something to do with anthracite coal, the Lehigh Canal, or maybe the steel industry, something particularly important along the trail… I was wrong; Hugh Moore was the inventor of the Dixie Cup.

Moore moved to Easton in his early 40s and located his individual disposable cup factory on 25th street. He soon realized that he located his iconic business in the heart of a very significant place in American history. Moore found a particular importance in the 260-acre piece of land between the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal that once supported three small iron industries along the canal. So in 1962, Moore and the Mayor of Easton at the time, George Smith, arranged to purchase this land for its historical significance.  Because of his efforts and support, the park was soon named after the Dixie Cup man himself, Hugh Moore.

Today, this park just so happens to be where the D&L’s headquarters are located, within the Elaine and Peter Emrick Technology Center.  This is also the new home of the National Canal Museum with its exhibits, offices, and state-of-the art archives. Just this year the Canal Museum was moved to this location and combined its hands-on exhibits and educational facilities with the only operating canal boat ride in Pennsylvania.  The Josiah White II is a canal boat that offers visitors the unique opportunity of boarding and floating along behind mules and authentically dressed canal workers during the summer months. They also offer a charter service for birthdays and meetings along with their spectacular dinner cruises, which goes through a fully functioning lift lock a short distance from the Emrick Center near Abbott Street.

Beyond the exhibits and boat rides the Canal Museum puts on all sorts of different events for the public to come and learn about their local history.  Every Friday during the summer months they put on a Picnic in the Park for the public. Veggie and Beef Burgers with a summer salad and watermelon on a hot August day, priceless!  All served up where the Josiah White II is docked from 11:30am to 1:30pm every Friday. Visit their website for more information and other events at http://www.canals.org/.

This portion of our D&L Trail takes a unique turn onto the Lehigh Canal Towpath that will lead you directly into the city of Easton and to the Forks of the Delaware, where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware River. There are many unique aspects about this portion of trail especially slightly upstream from the Emrick center along the tow path. I feel like this collection of artifacts and canal features is one of the most spectacular along the entire trail in their natural settings. Located next to the Lehigh Canal Guard Lock #8 and lock house there are two locks, one of which is still functioning. Apparently, the reason for these two locks is to allow the boats to pass from the slackwater, or sections of the river held by dams where the water was deeper and still, into the canal and also to control the flow of water into the canal.

There is also a Change Bridge, a Chain Dam and the home of the resident mules who tow the Josiah White II along the canal here. And as if that isn’t enough to occupy even those who are slightly interested, there is a powerful pour over dam across the Lehigh River just next to the canal. This is definitely a place where a lot of time can spent simply exploring.

As you continue along the tow path you will find that this section of trail is smoothly paved with blacktop, which is unlike most of the trail so far, and travels peacefully next to the canal under rusty trestle bridges and next to ruins of ancient feeling buildings and iron furnaces. Be sure to stop by the canal museum and pick up a self guided tour brochure as you travel through this area, there is way more here than I can possibly write about in this week’s blog.  For example the Glendon Iron Company, Lucy Furnace and Abbott Street Industrial Ruins. However, once you do come across a rusty trestle above your head and ruins sitting next the canal lock No. 47 you can take notice to the ruins of the Toll Collector’s Office (the only piece that is still standing is a brick vault that has stood the test of time). This building, which was once the busiest facility on the canal, collected the fees for the weight products the boat were transporting.

This section of trail is one of the few that runs almost directly through a larger city like Easton. There are tons of opportunities to take advantage of in Easton, the city is quite unique.  One of the very cool attractions around the city is the historic site where the Lehigh River runs into the broader Delaware River. This area is known as the Forks of the Delaware and is marked by a large and some what magnificent dam that harvests and controls the flow of the Lehigh as it enters the Delaware for its final journey towards the Atlantic.

The area between Hugh Moore Park and the city of Easton is filled with rarities that can only be found in this unique strip of land. There is no wonder why the inventor of the Dixie cup found significance in such an amazing place in history. It’s hard to mention everything that can be found within this area but I hope you enjoy the few things that I found to be truly spectacular. So far, this trail has done nothing but amaze me every day I have spent along it. I hope it does the same for all of you. Thanks for reading!

Oh I almost forgot! So, there are these signs around Hugh Moore that read “No Pets” and I’ve been thinking to myself, “that’s weird, why can’t you bring a dog to a park?” Well apparently dogs and mules don’t get along… who knew!?