From a vacant lot dormant of any action, to a hotbed attraction bustling with activity.
It was indeed a place of comings and goings as a steadfast crowd gathered in Downtown Slatington on Friday for the dedication of the Slatington Trailhead site and buildings.
Hosted by the Venture Group, the dedication enabled visitors to view the pavilion, restrooms and meeting room with electricity and running water, all with PenTeleData wireless Internet access.
The Trailhead is located adjacent to the Main Street Bridge that connects Slatington and Walnutport, and serves as the hub of eight multiuse trails in the Northern Lehigh area that attracts a huge turnout of visitors.
Jason Breidinger, chairman of the Venture Group, said the day marked a "very special occasion."
Breidinger recognized Les Glanz and Larry Arndt. He said Glanz worked tirelessly with all of the volunteer organizations during the construction of the buildings, while Arndt labored to construct the building slate block by slate block.
"Sadly, Les and Larry passed away during the construction, and can be here only in spirit this morning," Breidinger said. "I ask that you keep them in the forefront of your heart and mind as we conduct our ceremony this morning."
The Rev. David Schnaars then gave the invocation.
Breidinger then spoke of the English language, which he said gives us the use of the word 'you', Y-O-U.
"Only three letters that when used can describe one individual or when used can describe a group of individuals," he said. "Thanks to the versatility of the English language I most effectively speak to speak to all of you today; the individuals and the groups of individuals who without their gifts and talents we would not stand here to celebrate success today."
Breidinger said the Venture Group is a "one-of-a-kind volunteer organization. It is not just one organization, but an organization of organizations. Any group or volunteer organization can be a participating organization."
He said individuals selected by the groups including but not limited to include: Slatington Lions Club, represented by Pete Papay; the Slatington Rotary, represented by Nick & Clarence Smith; Future Focus, represented by Dan Kunkle and Les Glanz, the Northern Lehigh Community Center, represented by Paul and Michelle Gass; the Slatington Lodge, represented by Charlie Sule; the Northern Lehigh Historical Society, represented by Ted Kistler; the Walnutport Playground Association, represented by Bob Treskot; the Eastern Star, represented by Nancy Treskot; the Borough of Slatington, represented by Walter Niedermeyer, Bryon Reed and Russ Hallman; Washington Township, represented by Josh Friebolin and Abe Ahner; and the Chair organization of the group the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce, represented by Jason Breidinger, all meet on the last Wednesday of every month at the Slatington Borough Hall and take the ideas discussed back to their groups for support.
Breidinger referred to the Venture Group as "a group of groups where no one cares about who gets the credit; just that our community gets better."
"These groups, along with a list of community businesses and individuals too long to mention, pledged financial support and in kind labor toward this construction of these buildings; all of the work you see before you is a direct result of private, individual effort in cooperation with in kind services from Slatington, Washington Township, State Representative Harhart's office and Lehigh County," he said. "In the weeks prior to this mornings event, Boyer's shelves were emptied of sealer and the representatives of those groups along with individual businesses and volunteers sealed the exterior of the building and the fencing."
In addition, Breidinger said an eagle scout made the benches under the pavilion. Others cleaned the kitchen, and pruned the flower beds.
He then asked for a show of hands of the volunteers or contributors in attendance.
Breidinger added "our Northern Lehigh Community was fortunate enough to have the cooperation of these organizations through the Venture Group at a time when the D&L allocated public funding and their plans for the lot improvements you see here today, including the parking stalls, the trees, and the berms."
"If you've driven by you'll see the lot is jam packed with people enjoying the Trail; people enjoying our Northern Lehigh Community," he said. "The Borough of Slatington has acknowledged this as a good problem to have and is working on implementing plans to expand parking along Railroad Street in cooperation with the surrounding businesses."
Breidinger told those in attendance that "you, Y-O-U, are the Venture Group."
"Each and every one of you should take credit for doing something so big that not just the present day members of our community will get to enjoy, but for generations to come," he said. "Each and every time you pass by these buildings, each and every time you use these buildings, and each and every time future generations use these buildings, take every opportunity to give yourself the credit for what you've done."
Breidinger added "in one of the worst economic environments our nation has seen, you pulled a Northern Lehigh Community together and put it on the map."
"These buildings can now be used by our local organizations to raise funds toward their efforts," he said. "You see the Community Center here with hot dogs and bike rentals, starting at day one."
State Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh/Northampton) referred to the Trailhead as a "very labor-intensive project."
"I just think this is a wonderful project," Harhart said. "I'd like to congratulate every volunteer, every business, who has been a part of this."
State Sen. David Argall lauded all those who saw to it that the project came to fruition.
"I certainly understand how this has all come together with a lot of help," Argall said. "Rail-trail connections are incredibly important."
Slatington Borough Mayor Walter Niedermeyer was then introduced, at which time he said one person in particular, Pete Papay, deserved to be recognized.
Breidinger then presented a slate plaque to Papay, who together, founded the Venture Group.
Papay said "everybody who worked on it can take pride, and I want to say thank you."
Breidinger then took a moment to direct the crowd's attention to the covered items on the trail, and added that "without the participation of two families in particular, this project would have never been possible. Those families are the A.F. Boyer and Family, and Peter J Papay and Family.
He said "these slate benches symbolize the size of strength and support these two families have given our community; not only to this project, but the many others for which mention is never made."
"Our only wish is that the slate these benches are constructed from can last as long as our gratitude," he said. "Being as they've already been around for millions and millions of years, we think they stand a good chance."
Afterward, Breidinger presented a citation to Dan Stevens, president of Slatington Borough Council, and Niedermeyer.
"In doing so, we dedicate these buildings to the use of our Northern Lehigh community residents, the residents of Lehigh County and beyond," he said. "May these buildings, and the efforts that have been put toward their construction, serve to symbolize the strength and solidarity of our community, and may they serve the public well."
Stevens said it was about 15 years ago when he first heard about the proposed trails throughout the area.
Initially, Stevens said there were those who were against the idea.
He said that while not everyone may agree on every detail, what is agreed by all is being able to create something that's lasting for the community.
Stevens then thanked the volunteers and everyone else who assisted in the Trailhead, and added "I hope you all enjoy this as much as the people who put it together."
Ted Kistler said the project has been in the works since 1996 when he was approached by an individual who suggested that a trail should be built from Slatington to Slatedale.
"We could not express enough thanks to the volunteers who helped us with everything," Kistler said. "Also the business people for all they did."
Kistler also paid special tribute to Papay, as well as Bill Mineo, former trails manager for the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor who was involved in the acquisition, design and initial construction.
Breidinger ended the dedication by offering his thanks to everyone involved in seeing the project come to fruition.
The work was done by the Venture Group, an all-volunteer association of local volunteer civic organizations, municipal governments, and caring individuals.
All funding has been obtained from donations, local fund-raisers, and hundreds of volunteer labor hours that have been contributed to the project.
The sum total of these in-kind services and donations have saved the Northern Lehigh communities hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the Trailhead bathrooms and pavilion would have cost in excess of $400,000 to erect if grant monies had been used.
Thanks to the volunteers, and local businesses, the cost to erect the buildings totaled $125,000. The D&L utilized government grant monies to design and improve the parking lot, berms, grass and trees.
State Rep. Julie Harhart, members of the Slatington Borough Council, Washington Township Supervisors, Lehigh County, the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce (GNLCC), the Walnutport Canal Association, the Walnutport Playground Association, the Women's Club of Slatington, the Northern Lehigh School District, the Lions Club, the Northern Lehigh Historical Society, Future Focus, the Rotary, the Mason Lodge & Eastern Star, the Northern Lehigh Community Center, Lehigh Engineering, Orkin Steel and the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit all gave of their time and assets.
In Aug. of 2011, the 6.2-mile section of the Lehigh County owned and controlled portion of the D&L Trail was opened as part of a ceremony at the Slatington Trailhead.
The stretch – known as the Asher Boyer Trail – was named after the Slatington youth who helped create it while a Boy Scout. Asher passed away in 2004.
That section of the trail runs from Main Street in Slatington south to Laury's Station. It follows the former Lehigh Valley railroad bed, and is one of several key stretches needed to complete the 165-mile trail from Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County to Bristol in Lower Bucks County.
After the ceremony, hot dogs and lemonade were provided to the public by the Northern Lehigh Community Center.
The next Venture Group meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, inside Slatington Borough Hall.