About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, May 09, 2016

Bethlehem's Parks: Enjoy Them, But Respect Them

Mayor Bob Donchez
Over the past several years, Bethlehem's Saucon Park has been increasingly inundated by out-of-town visitors who have come in by the busload and have taxed limited City resources. Alcohol, boomboxes, open fires, damming the creek to create swimming holes, disruption of reserved picnics and damages to the rest rooms were becoming a regular occurrence. Though Mayor Bob Donchez states the "overwhelming majority" of park visitors are considerate, those who are not have made the park less desirable to residents. So Bethlehem has adopted tough new rules to ensure that Saucon and Monocacy Parks no longer suffer from overuse. Between Memorial and Labor Day, those who violate park regulations will see their fines doubled.

"Enjoy it, but respect it!" is Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio's admonition. There will be no swimming in either park. Alcohol will be prohibited, except in pavilions by permit. Portable grills and open fires will be banned. Tents and the construction of temporary structures will also be a violation. There will be more "no parking" signs in grassy areas, barriers along Fire Lane to prevent illegal parking and the lot used by Bethlehem Saints will be gated.

Parks Director Jane Persa
Two police officers will patrol from dawn to dusk by horse, bicycle and on foot. The weekend before Memorial Day, no citations will be issued. Chief DiLuzio explained that officers will take that weekend to educate and inform violators. After that, someone caught swimming could face a fine between $100 and $300, along with court costs.

If the parks become overcrowded, Chief DiLuzio said they will be closed.

Parks Director Jane Persa stressed, "We're not trying to keep people out of the parks." But she added that pavilion reservations are down because picnics are often disrupted by other park visitors. "We think people are a little worried to go there," she said.

Mayor Donchez met with residents who live near Saucon Park before proposing rule changes approved by City Council. he called this matter a "quality of life" issue, and plans to meet with residents again during the middle of the Summer to see what tweaks are needed.

Saucon Park is Bethlehem's oldest park, said Donchez. It was opened on July 4, 1919, under Mayor Archibald Johnston and was built with donations he sought from local citizens and businesses. A swimming pool located there has been closed, but may reopen in the future as a splash park.

Monocacy Park, which was once heavily thicketed swampland, was established in the 1930s as a WPA project.


Anonymous said...

Good for Bethlehem --- now let's make sure the rules are enforced. As a lifelong resident (64 years) I recall many happy and fun afternoons spent at both the Monocacy and Saucon parks.

Anonymous said...

Allentown should look at this also since the out of state "visitors" will move a little west in their search instead of staying in their own states.

Anonymous said...

The park system blows in all three cities. Thank goodness someone is trying to get this mess under control. Now , lets see how well it is enforced. Our local police will be spending many hours at the parks arresting New York cities and New Jerseys finest citizens(sarc) on a weekly basis, at these parks. As usual, the politicians and unelected officials let this go way too far for way too long. The real question is why and how did this problem get so out of control?