Summer, 03

From the President

By David G. Barber

Last fall, I attended a meeting of the Delaware & Hudson Canal site managers where the recent construction of a federal prison at Farview, PA was discussed among other subjects. Despite the farm buildings of the former state hospital and the grade of the post-gravity railroad steam railroad being on the National Historical Register, the Bureau of Prisons obliterated them with only two small booklets in mitigation.

A few years ago, reconstruction of the junction of interstate highways in Scranton, PA destroyed a couple of the historic inclined planes of the Pennsylvania Coal Company gravity railroad. Then also, mitigation resulted in a historical book. Is our objective a library of what was or preservation of the actual items?

In Zip Zimmerman’s new book on the Delaware Division Canal, he discusses a proposed apartment house in Yardley, Pa. that was to be built on a land locked site that would have required a new bridge over the watered canal for access. Necessary authorizing legislation flew through the state legislature with sponsorship of the organized building trades. Fortunately, with local opposition, the high rise hasn’t been built.

In all of these cases, when the question was jobs on the one hand and history and parks on the other, jobs won. I believe that it will continue to be so as long as the choice is jobs or history.

At Levittown, PA, a piece of the Delaware Division Canal was culverted and covered by a shopping center parking lot in the early 1950's. My understanding is that the original developer agreed to restore the canal after 50 years. Today, the shopping center is being replaced, but the redeveloper doesn't want the canal replaced. He is concerned about the visibility of his new stores from the highway. If the question is just another several thousand feet of old canal, culverting the canal might seem the solution. If the question is through navigation, culverting of the canal becomes unacceptable..

To counteract this lack of vision, we need to change the discussion. Excavating and rebuilding buried locks, canals, and basins involves construction jobs. Building new lock gates takes carpenters. Steelworkers and concrete workers build new bridges. Boat building and marinas involve other trades and create the opportunity for small, job providing family businesses. Once a canal is restored, jobs are involved in its operation and business will increase in neighboring stores and restaurants. Tourism is a major industry. We need to make it work for canals.

Since the construction trades can get the votes in the legislatures, shouldn’t we work to get them on board our campaign? Isn't the local chamber of commerce interested in promoting local business? Who else has an economic reason to help?

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