They pulled, tugged, and yanked out as many invasive plants as they could muster.
They became so consumed with the task at hand that the time just flew for a group of Lehighton Area High School students who worked to clean up Lock 13 in Parryville along the Lehigh Canal.
Seniors Shelby Hartman, Molly Harleman, and Jourdan Semmell, along with juniors Jade Leitzel and Kenzie Teno, collected trash and ripped out the old plant life that had been sprayed last year at the site.
But, they weren't alone, as students from 13 high schools in Carbon and Lehigh counties on Wednesday took part in the cleanup efforts along the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Chaperoned by teachers, over 70 students from Palmerton, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, Panther Valley, Weatherly, Carbon Career & Technical Institute, Northwestern Lehigh, Whitehall, Catasauqua, Dieruff, Salisbury, Southern Lehigh, and William Allen high schools participated in a variety of jobs.
There was landscaping and planting done at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Hugh Moore Park; trail clearing at Lock 2 in Lehigh Gorge State Park; removing graffiti on the Fahy Bridge in Bethlehem; cleaning trash from the Lehigh Canal in Bethlehem and Lock 28 in White Haven; and removing invasive plants at Lock 13 in Parryville and Lock 25 in Walnutport.
Dennis Scholl, D&L Outreach Coordinator, was able to arrange work details at nine sites in Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties. Site supervisors were recruited from the D&L Trail Tenders organization, the City of Bethlehem, Lehigh Gorge State Park, the Walnutport Canal Association, Lehigh Gap Nature Center, the Allentown Hiking Club, and Hugh Moore Park in Easton.
The participants are members of the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 Student Forum, an organization that offers students opportunities to work with area universities and businesses in problem-based learning events that emphasize higher thinking and a global perspective.Student Forum representatives decided last fall to offer their services to the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley for one-half day in April. The Volunteer Center in turn contacted the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, which maintains the D&L Trail from White Haven to Easton.
Leitzel said she couldn't think of a better project to help out the community in which she lives.
"It's located in our own community, so it's hitting us right in the heart," Leitzel said. "We're sweating, but it's well worth it."
Harleman said that while the students weren't sure what to expect when they arrived at the trail, they soon began to get into the work and have fun.
"They took us on a walk down the trail, we saw a lot of garbage, and got bags to clean it up," Harleman said. "Sometime we might come back and do it again."
High school instructor Joe Ellis, who accompanied the Lehighton students as a chaperone, said he believes the project teaches students to value nature.
"If we could just get a bunch of Lehighton kids, we could clean this [whole section]," Ellis said. "It's nice because it's something people can take pride in and preserve a historical place."
Supervisor Doug Makofka, coordinator of the Carbon County Trailtenders, a volunteer group of the D&L National Heritage Corridor, said plans are in the works to restore the site with new benches, picnic tables, new trees, and interpretive signs.
"The D&L would really like to set up a park here," Makofka said. "But, before we can do that work, we have to get the site cleaned up."
Makofka said the D&L will be doing periodic work throughout the county. On April 24, he said a Lehighton Boy Scout troop will meet at 8:45 a.m. at the Weissport Trailhead to do a cleanup of Lock 4 north of Weissport.
He said there are opportunities for groups to adopt sites. Anyone interested may contact Makofka at 215-828-4974, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor fosters stewardship of historical, cultural and natural resources along the early canal and railroad systems that carried anthracite coal from mine to market in eastern Pennsylvania.