Thursday, December 27, 2007

Allentown to invest millions in parks system

Today an article appeared in the Morning Call outlining many things Allentown park director Greg Weitzel told me about a few months ago. As part of a $5.3 million plan, Allentown intends to overhaul much of its park system to update facilities and add new amenities.

Renovate the more than 100-acre Cedar Creek Park, also known as Cedar Beach, in the West End. The park, one of the city's largest, hosts the annual Mayfair and SportsFest events. The renovated park will include a huge playground. The lake also may be dredged. There could be walkways along the creek with signs identifying wildlife, vegetation and trees. Another walkway could include sculptures.

Officials hope to make life easier on brides by allowing them to reserve a time to have photographs taken in the Cedar Creek's Rose Garden. The garden may be dressed up to include paved or brick walkways, which would allow chairs to be used for the first time. A reception area could be in the works, too, and a cafe.

Allentown's oldest park, West Park, will have a year-long series of events to mark its 100th birthday. The celebration will include improvements to the band shell, fountain, war memorials, signs and other amenities. Monthly programs will include scavenger hunts, block parties, an Earth Day party, dinner-and-a-movie nights and concerts.

The disk golf course in Little Lehigh Parkway could be updated in hopes of attracting the state and world championships.

The driving range at the golf course will be enclosed so it can be heated, with the goal of attracting more winter business. Other golf course improvements are expected to include new restrooms, cart paths and bunker sand.

A number of smaller but noticeable changes are planned too. New trash cans, benches, grills, picnic tables, lights and restrooms will be built at several parks. Targeted parks include Roosevelt, Buck Boyle, Percy Ruhe, Little Lehigh Parkway and East Side and South Mountain reservoirs.

Studies should be completed by the end of next year on how the city should proceed with connecting its trails and updating its swimming pools. Also to be studied is where to build Allentown's first dog park, an enclosed area where people can let their pets run leash-free.

The city is creating a ''Friends of the Park'' committee, a tool used in other cities to raise money and enlist volunteers. The committee would be created as a nonprofit organization. Its first meeting is scheduled in January.

A ''remembrance tree'' program is in the works to allow people to honor a loved one by making a donation and planting a tree in their name.

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