Dennis Scholl, outreach coordinator for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor presented a program at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, Slatington, on Saturday. Among his jobs is to manage the Trail Tenders program.
He introduced Dean Hower, the Northern Lehigh Chapter coordinator, and Cindy Kerschner, a former master gardener and plant expert.
Scholl said the trail runs 165 miles from Wilkes Barre to Bristol. He came to recruit trail tenders to maintain the trail.
It was created by Congress in 1988 as the third heritage area in the country and includes properties in Luzerne, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Bucks counties.
The theme of the local heritage area is the coal leading to the Industrial Revolution. The area has slate, limestone, coal, cement and iron. Transportation was by the Lehigh and Delaware canals and the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Scholl said 85 percent of the trail is complete with the gaps getting smaller. There will be a pedestrian bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe.
The 46-miles from White Haven to Easton has 52 locks and eight dams, and was built in two years. Josiah White and Erskine Hazard headed the project which was completed in 1827. The upper section from White Haven to Wilkes Barre was completed in 1838 because coal was being found farther north.
In that section there were giant locks that could lift a barge 32 feet in two minutes until the 1862 flood destroyed it.
The Lehigh Valley Railroad was built by Asa Packer in 1855.
The property does not belong to the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Corridor but by the municipalities it passes through. However, maintenance for the trail is usually at the bottom of the ladder for the municipalities.
Hundreds of people - the Trail Tenders - help the municipalities keep the trails open and the first job in an area is to keep vegetation down. In the beginning there was one Trail Tenders and people might travel miles to reach an area where work is being done.
Chapters were created so volunteers could work close to home. The Carbon County Chapter was an active group, said Scholl, but it fizzled. He had sign-up papers and hoped to recruit Tenders for that area, which goes from the Gap to Jim Thorpe where the trail becomes part of Lehigh Gorge Park.
Northern Lehigh is the second most in need of volunteers. Catasauqua and North Catasauqua Chapter is so new it is still not on the maps Scholl was showing.
In place of a chapter coordinator such as Dean Hower, supervisory committees are being formed that will meet once a month.
"We need the volunteers to run the organizations," Scholl said.
In addition to removing invasive plants and keeping any kind of vegetation out of the locks, native plants are being planted especially at the trailheads. Benches and picnic tables are built and placed along the trail. An outdoor classroom is being designed for groups such as school classes to meet along the trail.
Other jobs performed by the volunteers are fundraising, placing signs, public relations, trail interpretation and research.
"We are thinking of putting together a trail guide," said Scholl.
Lock 28 in White Haven is maintained every two years including this April 21. An Eagle Scout reclaimed a toll collector's house in Easton and the city has improved the surrounding area.
Probation kids provide a group of four to 12 each year. They located and dug out of vegetation a shelter that was being used by drug users. Holencik Roofing not only provided roofing materials but three installers who worked slowly enough to teach the kids.
Between Slatington and Treichlers there are invasive maples that have to be removed. Trees of Heaven line the trail, are hard to kill and spread easily. Remove one and five sprout. Beltzville Lions will be planting trees on Saturday.
Hower said he has a great email list but few turn out. He said Kerschner has been a great help. He told her what he wanted at the Cementon trailhead and she did the design and oversaw the work.
When you start work, neighborhood people come out and help as soon as they see you are doing something to beautify the neighborhood, said Kerschner.
Hower said his Trail Tenders help when the Walnutport Canal Association does a cleanup.
Every volunteer hour is worth $20 from the National Park Service. There are new tee shirts, caps and log books.
To volunteer or for information call 610-923-3548 ext.225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.