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Born again

  • Donald Christ, the first park director, stands at the reverse side of an eternal flame, which shows scenes of local memories. It is in the Gateway area.
    Donald Christ, the first park director, stands at the reverse side of an eternal flame, which shows scenes of local memories. It is in the Gateway area.
Published December 04. 2009 05:00PM

Ontelaunee Park in New Tripoli, Lynn Township, has gained new life after being purchased by the township in 2000.

Its first life began in 1929 with Homer and Alice Snyder, who provided country music, swimming and amusement rides until 1966.

In 1989, Big John Kospiah, the owner at that time, wanted to turn the 34-acre area into a trailer park. It never came about and the park grew to weeds. Some of the buildings had burned.

Lynn Township supervisors Don Christ, Jan Schaefer and Charlie Lenhart checked into buying it, with Christ taking the lead. The asking price was then thought to be too high, but with Big John's death, the need for an appraisal was explained to his son and wife, before the township could buy it.

The township appointed a recreation committee to decide if the needs of the township should include buying the park. A survey came back, largely in favor of the purchase.

Some people complained that there was a lot of open land, but it was in private hands. The park provides a place where people can go walking or take their dogs for an outing without need to fear they are trespassing.

Christ, who was the first park manager, said that on most days, people can be found walking the park.

But the first job necessary in order to give the park a second life was a massive clean-up effort. The work was done by volunteers.

Christ emphasizes that many people contributed to the park, which helped keep costs down.

The first major change was when Carl Snyder, a local historian, worked to move the Zeisloff House to Ontelaunee. It was the oldest house in Lynn Township.

Snyder had rescued the huge lintel from the fireplace. It had been thrown into the woods and he asked if he could have it. It was in storage when the house was moved and has been returned to the structure.

Springs had provided water for a trailer park owned by Kospiah. A stone spring house was added to make the open springs a beautiful attraction.

Susan Christ and the Rev. Bob Macamer designed the gateway. New pillars were placed - the single thing along with the cleanup that made the park look alive again to people passing on Route 143. Several years later flowers were planted next to the pillars. Eric Lundberg of Blue Mountain Nursery not only donated flowers but brought his work crew in to help with the planting.

An eternal flame monument shows memories of Lynn on the back side and the township history on the front. There is a walkway and a handicap accessible half-circle garden. Allentown West Rotary Club planted low-growing red roses. Blue and white annuals are planted in the spring to make a red, white and blue garden.

The flag poles were also a Rotary project in memory of Rotarian Gloria Zimmerman's parents.

The Gateway Garden Walk was dedicated at October's Pioneer Day 2009 event to "the past, present and future of Lynn Township," said Christ.

The Rotary, as a centennial project for Rotary International, built the bandstand and then invited the Pioneer Band of Allentown to play at its dedication.

There was talk of tearing down the old pavilion because repairing it would have been too costly, but people began using it and repairs were made as needed for safety instead of revamping the whole thing. But a new pavilion was built also with a kitchen and flush toilets. Picnic tables were purchased in memory of or to honor someone.

At Ontelaunee Creek, there was a place where trains stopped to let people off and pick them up later in the day. The bridge by which they crossed the creek is now the Tony Oswald covered bridge. To restore it, Oswald brought girders from a building that had collapsed. Now it leads to a rail-trail rather than to a train stop.

Boy Scouts added other trails as Eagle Scout projects. A scout planted a butterfly garden, again with plant donations from Lundberg.

Fish habitat improvements were made as another Eagle project. Ontelaunee Creek is stocked and fishermen line the creek on the opening of the season.

Girl Scouts planted flowers near the old pavilion. More flowers were planted near the Oswald bridge. People were given an opportunity to purchase a flower for Mother's Day and plant it in the park.

Students from Lehigh Career and Technical Institute provided a lot of earth- moving assistance as well as anything else that fit in with their classes.

Carl Snyder was not satisfied with the Zeisloff House. He wanted a Pioneer Village and, with the help of Willard Snyder and the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society, a re-creation of Fort Everett from the French and Indian War was built. Greg Searfass, who does post and beam construction, built bunks and a lean-to. He also helped with the fort. A stockade surrounds the fort and a well was built.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas is held each year and there is a bonfire and carol sing in the stockade and hot cider in both the Zeisloff and fort fireplaces, along with cookies to snack on or to buy and take home.

Pioneer Day is held in October with crafts, animals, music and, of course, food.

Northwestern Lehigh school children come and spend a day.

The past two years a powwow has been held in the park with a special children's day.

A Canine Relay for Life was also held the past two years.

It is a popular site for reunions, picnics and even a wedding.

On Tuesdays there is a farmer's and flea market.

There is a soccer field for which volunteers picked up stones and there is a playground for younger children.

Tennis and basketball courts are planned, but the tennis court has been put off indefinitely.

The fountain behind the old pavilion is scheduled for work as an Eagle project. Carl Snyder bought the train that once ran in the park when it came up for sale at an auction. It is in Willard Snyder's barn being repaired. They also have the track and so it looks promising that the train will run again.

If you remember hearing about Ontelaunee Park or recall visiting in your youth, it might be time for another visit.

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