|Vicky Bastidas and budding botanists|
Once home to Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first Mayor and a Bethlehem Steel Company president, this unusual mansion is the cornerpiece of a 55-acre passive recreation park located along Monocacy Creek, off Christian Spring Road. This property, along with $2 million for its care, was devised to the Township by the late Janet Housnick, Johnston's granddaughter.
Hudak and the rest of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Master Plan for Housenick Park last month, which calls for the mansion's restoration. But as a result of ambiguous language in the resolution adopting the plan, Hudak proposed modifying it to give Commissioners authority to raze the building, "if found to be necessary." He also wanted to delay plans to list the property on the National Register.
After the meeting, Hudak explained himself "I've always been in favor of keeping the mansion, from Day One." His personal preference is to see the outside restored, rest rooms added, and the ground floor made available as a senior center. Hudak added that he actually wrote the Resolution that would ensure passive recreation at the park, and has been familiar with the grounds since he's been a child.
Commissioner Paul Weiss, sitting next to Hudak, agreed that Commissioners' priority is to restore the mansion, and the resolution was proposed only to give them the option if it is impossible to save the building.
Despite their intentions, Hudak's proposed resolution brought several Housenick Park defenders to the meeting. Because the resolution had been withdrawn, BOC President Arthur Murphy asked them to keep their comments under two minutes.
Township resident Andy Unger told Commissioners that Housenick Park has become a "polarizing issue. Things start and then they happen, and then they don't happen. Motions get made, then motions get recalled." Unger suggested that people need to "talk to each other in a noncritical manner."
Housenick Trustee Tim Brady, himself a former Commissioner, asked why the Housenick Master Plan, which cost the Trust over $40,000, has never been provided to the parks and recreation board. President Arthur Murphy assured Brady that copies would be distributed the very next day.
Conservationist Victoria Bastidas, who has spent weeks at Housenick Park with students, brought several with her to the podium. She told Commissioners that these budding botanists, along with members of the Monocacy Creek Watershed Association, Audubon Society, and Sierra Club, just spent the previous weekend fishing computer terminals, tires and bottles of oil out of nearby Monocacy Creek. She claimed their efforts ease the burden on Township and County workers, who have been beset by recent storms. She suggest that the creek needs to be monitored more carefully, although only a small portion of it is located within the park.
Updated 7:32 PM