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PAHS is first group to visit Lehigh Gap Nature Center at night

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Dan Kunkle to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center guides members of the Palmerton Area Historical Society through the native plant gardens.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Dan Kunkle to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center guides members of the Palmerton Area Historical Society through the native plant gardens.
Published September 24. 2010 05:00PM

The Sept. 13 meeting of the Palmerton Area Historical Society was held at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. It was the first group to visit the new facility at night.

Director Dan Kunkle led a "short walk through the gardens." The gardens were planted with all-native plants to help people understand their importance to other native wildlife.

"Exotic plants have no food value for natives. We need plants, not mowed lawns," he said. There is no grass to mow at the center - and he stressed that the nature center is the outdoors, not the new building.

Kunkle was excited when a Monarch butterfly chose that time to lay an egg on a swamp milkweed plant, saying it was just as though he had planned it.

Once native plants are established they do not need water or fertilizer. They feed insects and he pointed out how badly the milkweeds are chewed up, but said they would recover.

Kunkle said the Edge of the Woods nursery on Route 100 is the best local place to buy native plants.

A power point presentation made the talk about the creation of the center easier to understand.

The New Jersey Zinc Company was a good company to the workers and to the town. There was no technology to control the pollution. The death of the Blue Mountain along the Gap is part of the legacy of the Zinc Company that should be erased.

"I'm proud to say this is the one superfund site that is a nature center with a 'visitors welcome' sign out," said Kunkle.

The wild bleeding heart grows well in zinc-impregnated soil. The only other place it grows also had a zinc smelter. Sandwort grows only at the Gap. There are four endangered species growing there.

A picture from the 1890s shows farmland and forest with a beauty to rival Delaware Water Gap.

The Environmental Protection Agency and CBS (which has responsibility for the superfund cleanup) were great helpers beginning in 2003. "They used our ideas, which saved CBS millions of dollars," said Kunkle.

"We wanted to help nature heal itself and the EPA approved," he said.

Grass was planted in plots to see what would grow best and then a biplane drew interest as the top of the mountain was seeded. Spectators went to the Slatington airport to see the planes.

He said everything at the new facility is done except for a laboratory. The mission of the center is conservation, education and research, and a long list of universities have come to the site to do research.

The group went downstairs to see the library which was created with the help of Peter and Carol Kern.

"Isn't it beautiful," was the general viewpoint.

A short business meeting was held by society members Betsy Burnhauser and Jane Borbe.

Burnhauser said more help is needed in the archives Wednesdays and at the Heritage Center whenever it is open

"The display cases have not been cleaned in five years," she said.

Kunkle mentioned that the center uses the archives a lot.

Beginning in January the featured display will be antique (50 years or more) quilts and coverlets. People willing to loan one to the center can make contact at the Heritage Center on Delaware Avenue.

On Oct. 10 the 20th anniversary event will be a tour of the Little White Church and burying ground. Blue Mountain Paranormals will do a study in the church.

Borbe said the 2011 membership drive has begun. Gift memberships may be given. Seventy of the historical throws have been sold. They are available at the Heritage Center.

The Christmas party will be Dec. 13 at Berts' Restaurant.

A granddaughter of member Tessie DeSousa, Michelle DeSousa, was married at the Little White Church and on Dec. 18 a man who is coming home from Iraq will be married there, but has to return to Iraq.

A donated flag was hung in the vestibule of the church, and a security system has been installed.

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