Friday, December 06, 2013

Archibald Johnston Lands To Be Preserved

Archibald Johnston
When Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first Mayor and one-time President of Bethlehem Steel retired in 1927, it was to what he called "Camel's Hump," a large tract along the Monocacy Creek. It included a three-story mansion that the engineer designed and built himself. He spent his last twenty years calling himself a "farmer," but still had The New York Times delivered daily from the open cockpit of an airplane.

During the Great Depression, this capitalist steel magnate started a bartering system among local farmers, making sure they each had work.

Johnston's granddaughter, Janet Housenick, would later convey 36 acres of Camel's Hump to Northampton County as the Archibald Johnston Conservation area. In her Will, she devised another 55 acres, including the mansion, to Bethlehem Township as a park. She also set aside $2 million for the Township to maintain the property.

But other lands next to the park, once owned by Johnston, were being threatened with development. Luxury apartments. Another strip mall along Route 191. Development was being planned at a recharge point for the Monocacy Creek, where hundreds of small springs combine to replenish a Class A trout stream.

The storm waters generated would undoubtedly cascade into downtown Bethlehem during heavy downpours.

But last night, thanks to the Central Moravian Church and the Leckonby Estate, Northampton County will be able to preserve 44 acres surrounding the park and conservation area.

Executive John Stoffa told Council that nobody will remember the Budget they voted on, but everyone will remember the decision to preserve this land.

Victoria Bastidas, living proof that one person can make a difference, spearheaded this project when luxury apartments were being contemplated at the site. But she did not credit herself. "This is not just about a park, not just about stormwater management, not just about buffering," she said. "This is about a community coming together."

Bethlehem Attorney Don Miles, President of the local Sierra Club, called this tract the "most environmentally sensitive land in Northampton County." In addition to being a recharge point for the Monocacy Creek, Miles told Council there are nine different eco systems inside Camel's Hump farm. He indicated that preservation of this land would mitigate the flooding in downtown Bethlehem.

Another Sierra Club member, Bib Adams, called it "a breath of life that will come to Bethlehem."

County Council unanimously authorized the following fee simple purchases by the Natural Lands Trust, of both the Central Moravian and Leckonby tracts.

The Central Moravian tract consists of 26 acres along Christian Springs Road, and the County will contribute $367,000. A matching grant of $367,500 will come from DCNR.

The Leckonby tract consists of 18 acres along Santee Mill Road, and the County will contribute $290,000. A matching grant of $290,000 will come from DCNR.

Council member Bob Werner called this project the kind of thing that "draws people to the community." John Cusick had another justification. "We're preserving history as well as open space."

Scott Parsons, who somehow got this in front of Council almost as soon as it was proposed, called it an "unbelievable great piece of property."

In his final month in office, this is probably John Stoffa's greatest achievement as County Executive.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...preservation of this land would mitigate the flooding in downtown Bethlehem."

So let me get this right, now that the land is preserved there will be no more flooding in downtown Bethlehem? Downtown Bethlehem floods now and the land is preserved. Doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

I get preservation. But the breathless hyperbole from the Sierra Club dope is a bit too much. No wonder they've marginalized a formerly fine organization.

Anonymous said...

@6:26
You should be half as smart as that Sierra Club dope, LOL!

Anonymous said...

mit·i·gate
ˈmitəˌgāt/Submit
verb
1. make less severe, serious, or painful.

Anonymous said...

Vickie is the new Gertie Fox

Anonymous said...

@7:41
Don't confuse them with the facts.

Anonymous said...

Vicki IS the new Gertie Fox!!!

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is Gertie Fox?

Anonymous said...

A Central Park for the Lehigh Vally!
Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

"mit·i·gate
ˈmitəˌgāt/Submit
verb
1. make less severe, serious, or painful."

Exactly. The land is currently undeveloped and its continued undeveloped state will not mitigate downtown flooding in any way. Preservation is fine, but save the bullshit. The idiots who believe it are already on your side.

Anonymous said...

Well will flooding be worse if someone black tops areas in this park? Maybe that all we can do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This will mitigate flooding downtown for several reasons. That is one of many reasons for this purchase

Anonymous said...

Developing the land would have only contributed to further and greater flooding problems. Preserving the land won't lessen the existing problems, but it is certainly a better solution than contributing to continued over development upstream.

Jesus said...

It is very interesting

Anonymous said...

Just a future hangout for environmental whackos to grow their weed.

Anonymous said...

Lets pave it all and see if downstream flooding gets worse.

Anonymous said...

Tree hugging nonsense

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if the DCNR grant be in hand before the transaction or after? How long does it take to get DCNR grants after an award is made?

Lighthouse said...

One Republican "tree hugger" made his way to Mount Rushmore.

"As president, Roosevelt provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres of land, an area equivalent to the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida. He sat aside 150 national forests, the first 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, the first 18 national monuments, the first four national game preserves and the first 24 reclamation, or federal irrigation, projects, designations that were bitterly opposed by commercial interests. Roosevelt also appointed as the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service the visionary Gifford Pinchot, who shared his philosophy of natural resource conservation through sustainable use - See more at: http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/pp.aspx?c=elKSIdOWIiJ8H&b=8344385#sthash.VWlLqhWH.dpuf"

Anonymous said...

How much would it cost for the township to repave and maintain two miles of road winding through a resudential development? Land preservation is more cost effective.

Log Cabin Preservationist said...

Archibald Johnston was a gentleman and a scholar, and hung like a farm animal. This is a worthy project. I'm willing to give 'til it hurts.

Anonymous said...

Teddy Roosevelt was a stinking "progressive" and we know what they have done and are doing tot he country. He was no real Republican.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see. TR is not good enough for some anonymous commenter with nothing else to do on a Saturday night .

Anonymous said...

TR was a "progressive". They have destroyed America.

Anonymous said...

let us not forget TR's real reason for preserving the forest. TR was an avid hunter who realized that if we did not preserve the habitat that his beloved sport, Hunting, would go the way of the dodo. So lets not get all tree huggie about it and make ulterior motives. He was just trying to make sure there would be habitat to support hunting well into the future genertations. This is noy an opinion but his own words,easily verified. not that there is anything wrong with that but lets call it what it really was.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you don't think hunters are conservation-minded, you're nuts. They are some of the most avid environmentalists I know. NC's Open Space Committee is chaired by the President of the Sportsman Federation. Loving to hunt and caring about the land are two harmonious principles. God, don't you watch Indian movies?