Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Allentown poised to invest in parks

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity, along with NET's Sports Chair Cory Crawford, to sit down and discuss Allentown's valuable park system with parks Director Greg Weitzel. Thanks to a guy named Trexler, Allentown has more park space per capita than any other city in the country.

Greg, who has been in his position less than a year, has big plans for Allentown. He unveiled a working plan for a total revamp of Cedar Park. And let me tell you with a sculpture walk, a skate park, a cafe, and a new pavilion for weddings and other special events - it was cool. This is a long term plan which we probably won't see complete for another 3-4 years, however there are some more immediate things in the works. In many of the entrances to Allentown, you may have noticed new "Welcome to Allentown" flags. The city intends to build upon this with greenscaping at entryways into the city and more "Welcome to Allentown" signage.

I have experienced first hand what a little clean up, signage, street lamps and greenscaping can do. I attended college in York, Pennsylvania which has many similarities to Allentown. Recently on a jaunt through the city I saw some major improvements including brickwork, flower boxes and plentiful, quaint lighting. It made a world of difference in my perception of that area. Greg is a big supporter of greenscaping, and I hope to see similar improvements in Allentown.

Finally, Allentown has been working for along time to connect all its parks together with one giant bike path. It seems that progress is being made, albeit slowly. They are working closely with Rodale and the Wildlands Conservancy to connect even more land. I made a suggestion that would go hand-in-hand with this master plan - rental bikes.

In my trip down to Louisville in September to the Young Professionals Summit, I learned about a unique bike rental system they have there. There are bike stations throughout the city where you swipe your credit card and money is taken off you card which releases the bike. When you return the bike to any of the stations you swipe your card again and get your money back. Similar systems are in place in Paris and Munich, but it really hasn't caught on here in the states. I think a similar system would be a great thing to implement here in Allentown, and would perhaps help with some traffic concerns as well.

Your president,

Vanessa Williams

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