Ground broken for new park
Elle Passman of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce presents a check in the amount of $3,000 to Dan Stevens, Slatington borough councilman.
Building on a solid foundation from the past for a greener future tomorrow.
With that very thought in mind, a ground-breaking ceremony was held Tuesday at the future site of the Slatington Memorial Park.
The borough, in conjunction with Northern Lehigh Future Focus, held a ceremony at the former site of the old Slatington High School, located at Second and Main streets in Slatington.
Dan Stevens, borough councilman, said the former Slatington High School graced the land until its demise in 1981. Now, Stevens said the borough wants to re-establish the site as a "social and community hub."
"This day's been a long time coming, but persistence and hard work have paid off in the long run," Stevens said. "We believe once the people see the work we're doing, they will be excited."
Dennis DeMara, natural resource supervisor for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he can see the potential the site has to offer.
"This is going to be a real community asset," DeMara said. "You can tell the people who live here take real pride in this community; it's evident when you drive in."
DeMara praised all those involved who ensured the project will come to fruition.
"It's great to see the scale with which this park will be built," he said. "I just want to commend the borough and the Northern Lehigh Future Focus for your work."
State Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh/Northampton) said she was proud to be on hand for such a joyous occasion.
"When this building was torn down, the vision was to make it into a memorial park," Harhart said. "It is just befitting to have this place be Slatington Memorial Park."
Harhart said the organization is aptly named.
"You truly do have a focus, and are definitely committed to turning this area around," she said.
Elle Passman, of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, then presented Stevens with a check in the amount of $3,000.
"This location is in the perfect location to revitalize the Borough of Slatington," Passman said.
The event officially kicked off phase I of the park's construction, which will include the construction of a brick paved performance area, the placement of a large gazebo, angled parking along Second Street, new sidewalks along Second Street and around the gazebo, a drinking fountain and plumbing, electrical infrastructure work and the installation of the previously mentioned Victorian-style benches.
Work on the estimated $280,000 project will be conducted by Livengood Excavators, Walnutport, and is expected to start in the next few weeks.
With the help of Harhart, and the late state Sen. Jim Rhoades, the NLFF was able to secure a Department of Community and Economic Development grant in the amount of $10,000 for design work and drawings in 2002.
Then, in 2005, a $40,000 DCNR grant was awarded to the borough, which, along with the award of a $76,000 grant from Lehigh County through its Green Future Fund, ensured enough money was available to begin Phase I of the park's construction.
Additional monies for the project have been received from the Lehigh Valley Chamber Foundation, which awarded the NLFF a grant in the amount of $3,000. Additional grant money and money from several classes that graduated from the former school was used to purchase $10,000 in Victorian style benches, which will soon grace the grounds of the park.
The school building, constructed in 1916, and used as a junior high school since 1960 when a new high school was built, had been vacant since 1981.
The building fell into disrepair, with the roof starting to cave in, and was condemned by the borough, which then acquired the property through back taxes. With the help of former County Executive Jane Baker, who tapped the county's "rainy day fund;" the borough was able to raze the building in 2001.
A community visioning group serving the Northern Lehigh area, the NLFF became interested in the site, formed a committee, and held a number of community meetings to receive public input in order to determine what to do with the vacant site.
Dale Freudenberger, market town's manager for the D&L Corridor, was instrumental in working with Future Focus on the public meetings, and then in the early stages of planning and helping to find funding sources for the park.