Lehigh County OKs Walking Purchase Park Improvement Plan
Lehigh County and Salisbury Township have approved plan to improve 530-acre park, still waiting for Allentown.
The mammoth Walking Purchase Park in Salisbury Township is a step closer to being eligible for grants for a makeover.
Lehigh County Commissioners voted last week to approve the master plan for the heavily wooded 530-acre park, a key move before officials can apply for state and federal grants to pay for $1.4 million in improvements. Some of the renovations include a 75-space parking lot off Riverside Drive, a security gate, boat launch and pavilions.
Although largely in Salisbury Township, a portion of Walking Purchase Park is in Allentown. Salisbury, Allentown and the county, which jointly own the park, each has to pass resolutions to approve the master plan so they can apply for grants. The Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners approved the plan January 27. The Allentown City Council has yet to vote on it.
“One of the most important things about a master plan is it must be on file to receive grants from state and federal agencies,” said County Commissioner Percy Dougherty.
“We hope to leverage our funds by going after some of these monies in the future to further develop this particular park and to make sure it doesn’t become simply a resting ground for a lot of refuse that has been dumped there,” he said.
County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart, a Salisbury resident, said the plan isn’t perfect. But when he was a Salisbury commissioner he got a clause written into the plan that requires Salisbury, Allentown and the county to approve any expenditures before money can be used for the upgrade.
“No tax dollars can be spent unless all three legislative bodies agree to it,” Eckhart said.
But some members of the audience said the commissioners shouldn’t be going after federal or state grants to pay for local projects because they would be using taxpayers’ money.
"I don’t think it needs to be passed because we don’t need to ask the federal government for anything. If we can’t do it ourselves, we don’t do it,” said William Antrim of Whitehall Township.
Lynn Donches of Emmaus also objected to applying for grants to improve the park. “I’m fine with the land sitting there and doing nothing,” she said.
The master plan was approved 8-0, with Commissioner William Hansell absent.