Lehigh Mountain Park Clean-up

A serene section of Lehigh Mountain Park in Allentown for years has been known as a dumping ground for garbage referred to as “white goods” — including mattresses, appliances, stoves and washing machines — rather than for the natural sanctuary it could provide for city residents.

Members of Buddhist Blue Mountain Zendo visit the park regularly to pay homage to the natural fountain, springs and vibrant wildlife. They’ve teamed up with area park organizations and interested citizens to try to reveal the beauty of the park for the use of other community members as well.

“This area has a history of this,” Rev. Joriki Dat Baker, of Blue Mountain Zendo, says of the illegal trash dumping. “But what people don’t see is pristine forest and a huge aquifer.”

Lehigh County Parks Department, Allentown Parks, Salisbury Township, The Friends of Allentown Parks, Lehigh County Parks Department and Trinity Episcopal Church of Bethlehem are among the other organizations that have banded together to organize a mass cleanup being held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. The groups will meet and start the cleanup at the park’s Constitution Drive entrance.

The effort, planned to address more than 230 acres of the park, was organized before a brush fire burned an area of wooded land of the uplands during the early morning hours of April 19. The fire, which began on Constitution Drive,  was contained to two acres by the Allentown Fire Department.

Karen El-Chaar, executive director of Friends of the Allentown Parks, says cleanup is even more crucial now.

“Many people don’t realize this park even exists,” El-Chaar says.

El-Chaar has helped to organize high school groups and other volunteers to help out, along with securing small grants to aid with material expenses such as dump trucks, dumpsters, gardening equipment and trash bags.

“It’s not just a local park and important for the local community, but a national gem for the area,” Baker says of the historical significance of the park, including native artifacts found there and wildlife.

Baker says there is a plan to put gates up to block off the park to prevent people driving in with trash to dump, but they hope to have one big push for cleanup before gates are slated to be put in this summer.

More than 200 people are expected to show up to help with trash pickup and minor landscaping of the park, but more are needed.

Baker says the event has a larger purpose than just being a work detail. The area, which has also been used for walking and mountain biking trails, will also house community gardening efforts by Our Place, a Muslim Community organization, which has a location in Morristown, N.J.

“The focus is cleanup and bringing community together to realize what a great natural resource they have,” Baker says.

By: Tiffany Bentley Express Times

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