Celebrating 40 Years of “Getting Things Done”
The Friends of the Delaware Canal is a non-profit organization comprised almost entirely of volunteers. With a small staff of one full-time and one part-time employee, we can attribute nearly everything we have accomplished over the past 40 years to the many people who love the Canal and its surroundings.
Since 1982, we have accomplished many things!
While we can’t list all of the achievements of our Friends and volunteers in one article, we will attempt to highlight those contributions that have made the most significant impact. Many of these projects were funded entirely by the Friends members and supporters, most projects required sweat equity. All of these improvements have made a difference.
CAMELBACK BRIDGE RESTORATION
There are 125 bridges that span the Canal, but none are quiet as significant as the Camelback Bridges, which were designed to accommodate the Canal boats as they passed beneath the crested timber bridge. Today, six camelback bridges remain along the Canal and the Friends
have been instrumental in preserving, rebuilding, and maintaining these historic structures. We have funded the restoration
of four of these bridges and partially funded a fifth, raising over $190,000 for these projects. We have one more to go, Spahr’s Bridge, which we wrote about in our last newsletter. This reconstruction will be our largest undertaking so far.
911 BENCHES–REMEMBERING LOCAL VICTIMS
Eighteen Bucks County residents lost their lives in New York on 9/11. FODC Board members wanted to honor these victims and their families by installing teak benches along the towpath, each with a brass plaque detailing the life lost. DCNR approved the project, and the Friends
coordinated the distribution and the installation of the benches. A similar memorial bench, located in New Hope, recently took a swim downstream during the floods caused by Ida. It was recovered 30 miles away by members of the Red Dragon Canoe Club in Beverly, N.J.
INTERPRETIVE AND DIRECTIONAL SIGNS– LEARNING ABOUT THE PAST
Thanks to grants from Bucks County and donations from members of the Friends, interpretive signs were purchased and installed along the towpath. These signs featured information about life on the canal, the canal boats and mules, and the history of this National landmark. Our Canal Loop trails signs maybe be the most popular and are frequently used by visitors to help them plot their course.
The Friends also developed a series of site specific signs. These signs tell the history of the towns along the river valley and their link to the Canal. These installations took place in Bristol, Levittown, Morrisville, Yardley, Washington Crossing, New Hope, Centre Bridge, Lumberville, Point
Pleasant, Smithtown, Erwinna, Uhlerstown, Upper Black Eddy, Narrowsville, and Durham. We also installed a sign in Tullytown marking a recently uncovered “Canal Boat Graveyard.”
Once the signs were developed and manufactured, our dedicated volunteers installed them with the help of the Park staff. Today, our members and supporters maintain the signs, cleaning and replacing when required.
Forgot your Fitbit, don’t worry, we have the perfect solution, granite mile-markers.
These heavy stones are placed along the towpath in one-mile increments so you can know just how far you have gone or how far you have to go. Friends volunteers installed the stones and continue to maintain them.
CANAL TENDERS AND CLEAN-UP DAY
Visitors to the Canal and the Park grew to unprecedented numbers during the pandemic. People seeking the solace of nature hiked, biked, and paddled all along the 58.9 mile stretch of the Canal. And throughout it all, our Canal Tenders remained vigilant, clearing the towpath from debris and reporting any obstacles they encountered. These dedicated volunteers are the heart of the Friends organization. They ensure the Delaware Canal State
Park remains a pristine environment for all to enjoy.
Our Annual Canal Clean-up Day attracts volunteers from throughout Bucks County who have come to treasure the park’s natural beauty. Scout troops, high-schoolers, and retirees alike all come together on land and in water to clean up the Canal and the surrounding area.
SPRUCING THINGS UP. (PAINT, PAINT AND MORE PAINT!)
There are structures, big and small, all along the 58.9 miles of the towpath that require maintenance and repairs. Exposure to the elements, including flooding, takes a toll over time. The Friends CAT Teams tackle these projects as needed. Josh Gladwohl, one of the lead CAT Team members, often spearheads these projects, buying lumber and materials so the team is ready to get to work. These volunteers have repaired and repainted many structures including the camelback bridges, fencing and buildings. They built portable outhouse enclosures, replaced various timbers on waste gates, locks, and fencing, and maintained and replaced the interpretive signs along the way.
CLEARING THE PATH
Over the years, the Friends have been responsible for supporting the efforts of the Park staff by hiring contractors to help them tackle some urgent issues, including restoring and stabilizing the towpath bank in Washington Crossing as well as tree removal. Our Canal Tenders contribute
throughout the year, clearing debris and reporting on more serious issues when they arise.
GETTING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT FOR THE JOB
In 1991, the Friends launched the “Pledge for the Dredge” campaign which raised $100,000 to purchase a long-arm excavator for the park. This equipment was used to clear silt from the Canal waterway, improving water flow. The Friends also raised funding for a tow truck, a rehabilitated army vehicle known as “Bomber” and some bicycles and replaced a damaged kayak. Most recently, we purchased and installed a KayaArm, a kayak launch stabilizing device on the dock at Theodore Roosevelt Recreation Area.
LOCKTENDER’S HOUSE – A FITTING HOME FOR FODC
The Friends asked the State to purchase the building in 1991 with the promise of restoring it and utilizing it as a mini historic house museum, “visitors center,” and headquarters.
On weekends in the warmer months, a docent is on hand to give visitors a tour and history of the property and the inner workings of the canal.
LET IT FLOW
Our mission statement says it best “Our primary goals are to ensure the Canal is fully-watered from Easton to Bristol and the towpath trail is usable over its entire length.” To help make this vision a reality, the Friends proposed a plan to install pumps to supplement the flow of water from the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. Today, one of these pumps is responsible for maintaining water in the canal from Centre Bridge through New Hope.
We hope to receive approvals soon to finish the installation of a pump in Washington Crossing which will augment the flow of water going south.
DO THE LOOPS
Along the way, over these 40 years, we have also had our measure of fun. We have walked, hiked, biked, laughed, lunched, skated, boated, and skied. The loop trails, which link the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Canal paths and greenways, was a concept developed and promoted by the Friends. These trails have become one of the most popular features of the Delaware River Valley in Bucks County and beyond.
40 YEARS OF STEWARDSHIP
Without our volunteers and supporters, the Friends of the Delaware Canal would not exist. Whether you donate to a project or paint a bridge, all of these contributions are a testament to the enduring and endearing qualities of the Canal and the towpath.
The Canal connects us, brings us together, and during the pandemic, it provided a much-needed respite from the anxiety we all faced. We all discovered that nature is a natural remedy with no ill side effects and it offers us a free and effortless way to restore our bodies and minds.
Scudder Falls Shared-Use Path Is Open for Business!
On November 16, 2021, the long-awaited Scudder Falls Shared-Use Path opened to pedestrians and bicyclists.
It was a windy Tuesday morning as guests, along with state and local officials, gathered to celebrate the completion of the new shared-use path. As workers were completing the expansion of the new toll bridge itself, the pedestrian path, which is located on the upstream side of the bridge, was formally opened.
The ceremony included a ribbon-cutting done by the descendant of the original settler, Richard Betts Scudder, along with representatives from the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation and Park officials.
The new shared-use path improves access to the Delaware Canal towpath in Pennsylvania and the D & R Feeder Canal towpath in New Jersey, connecting Lower Makefield with Ewing, New Jersey. And it creates an additional loop trail for residents and visitors to enjoy. The 1,587-foot walkway was built to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists with a roomy 10 feet in width and includes four scenic outlooks on the span to encourage
all to take in the scenery.
The new bridge span complex includes a 127-space park-n- ride lot located at the intersection of Taylorsville and Woodside roads in Lower Makefield and a comfort station housed in a restored stone structure that dates to 1799. Bridge and trail ramp connections can accommodate pedestrians as well as cyclists and are ADA compliant.
The span provides a traverse from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and offers some spectacular scenic views. There are four overlooks on the bridge walkway and access ramps. A new Canal pedestrian bridge and connector path located near the 1799 House improve access to this new span on the Pennsylvania side.
This project has been supported enthusiastically by many area residents and visitors alike. The size of the path is particularly appealing to bicyclists who must walk bikes across all other Delaware River Bridges. The ten-foot width of this path provides enough room for walkers, joggers and bikers to peacefully coexist.
Power-assisted bicycles along with skateboards, roller skates, rollerblades, and horses are not permitted. This project was funded by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
Meet Brian Heath, Delaware Canal State Park’s New Park Manager
Change is something we are used to along the Delaware Canal, and of course, it is inevitable. We are blessed to have great relationships with the Park personnel, including the out-going Park Manager, Devin Buzard. Buzard, who assumed the role in the summer of 2019, hit the ground running and made an impact along the Canal and towpath.
He began his career at DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks in 2011 and he has held several positions with increasing responsibility. Buzard will now assume a new role, overseeing the parks in western Pennsylvania. We are excited about his future and wish him continued success. His many contributions to the Canal and the park are greatly appreciated.
We are equally excited to work with the incoming Delaware Canal State Park Manager, Brian Heath, who has had a successful career with the park service beginning in 2011.
DCNR Secretary, Cindy Adams Dunn, gave Heath a strong endorsement. “Brian’s expert-level grasp of public relations and administrative skills continue to shine within our state parks system, as evidenced by his exemplary work at a number of our popular parks,” Dunn said. “We are thankful for his work at Gifford Pinchot and are confident Brian will rise to the challenge of managing Delaware Canal.”
“It is humbling to witness the impacts of this park on the towns, residents, and visitors along its 60-mile length, and how integral it is to daily life,” Heath said. “With an eye on the past, while looking toward the future, I am honored to continue the Department’s commitment to maintaining and improving this cherished cultural, historic, and recreational resource while preserving the natural environment for the use and enjoyment of all, for
generations to come.”
Heath is no stranger to this area. Raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, he attended East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Heath began his career in parks at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area before joining DCNR in 2011 as a ranger trainee at Evansburg State Park. In 2021, Heath entered DCNR’s park manager trainee program, eventually serving as an assistant park manager at the Hickory Run State Park Complex. He previously managed Benjamin Rush Neshaminy and Gifford Pinchot State Parks.
Heath is happy to be returning to Southeastern Pennsylvania, and we are so glad to welcome him home!
PARK MANAGER’S REPORT
The new year and change of season, evidenced by thawing ice and warming temperatures, is reflected in your beloved park, both actually and administratively. I am honored to have accepted this appointment to the park manager’s chair, and thankful for not only the welcome I’ve received, but the support and assistance provided in my inaugural weeks. Everything accomplished by our agency is through the collaborative work of a team, and nowhere is that more evident than at Delaware Canal State Park. Our maintenance, law enforcement, education and administrative personnel work diligently, under the leadership of our Assistant Managers, to continue to provide quality facilities and services for our park users. DCNR engineering staff continues to develop and accomplish large-scale repair and improvement projects to address the ongoing needs of canal infrastructure while our Regional, Central, and Director’s offices provide unending aid on high-level and technical issues impacting the park.
I have quickly learned that this park is blessed to have additional team members, beyond what the agency can provide, in The Friends of the Delaware Canal, who’s direct support I have already witnessed in my short tenure here! Again, I express my gratitude in my good fortune to join this team, and I look forward to continuing and strengthening our relationships and partnerships as we work towards our canal’s bright future.
The park has hired a new Park Ranger Trainee who will be joining the law enforcement ranks for the coming season, however, we struggle to fill a current semi-skilled laborer vacancy, while expecting several others. This entry-level maintenance position fulfills a variety of duties upkeeping
the park and is an excellent way to start a career with state parks. Interested persons should contact the park office directly for more information
As we anticipate the return of mowing season, funding has been allocated for new mowing equipment that we hope to have operational for the approaching season. This new equipment is expected to assist in cutting down on mowing delays caused by equipment failure.
Repairs of the 1st mile in Easton are unfortunately delayed due to loss of administrative staff in our Facility Construction and Design Bureau. While still a top priority, project dates have been pushed back.
The Menzi Muck is completing removal of a gravel bar at Milkhouse Creek in Upper Makefield, after which it will relocate to the Mt. Eyre area.
Contracted dredging has been completed, and the post-completion meeting was held in February. All locations have been dredged with the exception of an area south of Uhlerstown covered bridge. Staff hopes to complete that site as soon as possible. An estimated total of 4,000 cubic yards has been removed.
A field visit to the High Falls Creek Culvert, which was decimated by Ida, with representatives from multiple interested entities and agencies, including the Friends of the Delaware Canal, occurred in February, to provide input and assessment regarding plans for an improved replacement that pays homage to the structure’s history. Also damaged by Ida, a project scoping meeting was held at Tohickon Aqueduct in February.
Emergency removal of the Lumberville Aqueduct, another casualty of Ida, was completed. Contracted trail repairs to the area south are nearly complete, with the final seeding to be completed by the park.
PennDOT roadwork at the sub-canal culvert at Canalside Cup is expected to reach completion in the coming weeks. We are also cooperating with PennDOT to complete emergency culvert cleaning at Cuttalossa Creek near Delaware Quarries. DOT will assist us in cleaning out our portion of the culvert as well. At the time of this writing, a temporary pipe is crossing the canal and towpath to facilitate bypass pumping, and DOT will be constructing a temporary canal crossing to facilitate moving equipment to the riverside.
At Virginia Forest Recreation Area, an Electric Vehicle charging station is currently being installed as part of DCNR’s green initiative. Contractors are temporarily storing material to be used for nearby projects.
At Sommer’s Authentic Camelback Truss bridge, significant beam deterioration was noted, and upon further inspection, found to have resulted in structural deficiencies causing the structure to shift, which resulted in immediate closure for safety concerns. The park and engineering staff developed a scope of work and obtained repair estimates. The Friends of the Delaware Canal will be contributing significant financial assistance for repair, from a variety of sources including a generous private donation. This assistance will allow repairs to be completed in a much more expeditious manner.
A proposal for Spahr’s Authentic Camelback Truss bridge has been returned to the design consultant with DCNR commentary, and we await response.
A temporary road crossing at the Tebola Beans bridge outside of Washington Crossing has commenced, and as of this writing all three temporary culvert pipes have been installed and contractors are backfilling with stone. This crossing will facilitate resumed vehicle access across the canal to residents and business patrons and will provide a work platform from which contractors can demolish and replace the existing, currently closed bridge in the future.
The large-scale 12 bridge project continues to move forward in various phases of planning and design. The park awaits return of lingering temporary construction easements from various adjacent property owners in order to commence the first phase of work. With continued progress, we expect the commencement of the initial phase in the near future.
Non-compliance issues have increased in the Bristol area, including dumping and other illegal activities, putting additional strain on our law enforcement and maintenance staff, as well as our neighbors and park visitors. We ask for continued vigilance from the public by observing and reporting. Please report non-emergency information to the park office, and report emergency situations by calling 9-1-1. Your safety is our top priority, and we ask that you do not approach strangers or attempt to prevent illegal activity yourself. If you see something, say something.
The September 11 National Memorial Trail, which runs along the Towpath from Morrisville to Lumberville, has received Federal Designation and DCNR designation as a major greenway. This trail network connects all three sites from the 9/11 tragedy, as well as other nearby sites of national historic significance. Wayfinding signage is being installed in the park at access points, and a press event is expected in mid-March. More information on the trail can be found at www.911trail.org.
Members of the Friend’s Board held a productive meeting with the Regional Park office, Assistant Director, and me to discuss the Friends’ strategic planning initiative and share information. Follow-up meetings and discussions are planned.
A final thanks for the warm welcome, and ongoing support. See you on the towpath!
The Delaware Canal Towpath has been named 2022 Trail of the Year!
Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently announced that the Delaware Canal State Park Towpath has been named Pennsylvania’s 2022 Trail of the Year. “It is my pleasure to announce that this diverse, historic trail has been selected to be Pennsylvania’s 2022 Trail of the Year,” Dunn said. “Today, we celebrate the Delaware Canal State Park Towpath and the multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities it has provided for generations, as it continues to be a destination for so many people. With this honor, I am hopeful that even more people seek out this gem of a trail and the larger region to which it connects its users.”
“The Friends of Delaware Canal, recipients of the award, are honored that the Delaware Canal State Park Towpath was named Pennsylvania’s 2022 Trail of the Year,” Michael Ginder, executive director of the Friends of Delaware Canal said. “The towpath has much to offer with a rich history and has seen an increase in visitors the past couple of years as more and more individuals spend time outdoors. The Trail of the Year recognition will allow the Friends to build on that increased visitor momentum as well as bolster the work we do to ensure the towpath trail is usable over its entire length.”
There are over 12,000 miles of trails in Pennsylvania, so this recognition is significant. It highlights the Canal towpath’s many virtues. With access to all forms of recreation from, boating to biking, this greenway provides exceptional outdoor adventures for all to enjoy. We encourage everyone to come out and experience all the Canal towpath has to offer as the 2022 Trail of the Year!
GRATITUDE AND THANKS
To our members and friends who contributed to the Friends year-end appeal, we say THANK YOU! Your commitment to investing in the work we do to restore, preserve and improve the Delaware Canal and its surroundings is needed more than ever.
It comes at a time when the Canal and towpath once again suffered at the hands of Mother Nature. Tropical Storm Ida left behind a great deal of damage to the towpath as well as canal structures like culverts and aqueducts. And while we are confident that the state will provide funding for much of the repair and restoration work, we still need our grassroots organization to bolster their efforts.
So, we are grateful to all who participated in the end-of-year appeal. And we look forward to celebrating our 40th Anniversary in 2022.