Canal News – Fall 2017
One can never say that dealing with the Delaware Canal is dull – especially this summer. In the last issue of Canal News, we reported that the unexpected berm bank blowout just north of the Tinicum Aqueduct had been treated as an emergency, much to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ credit. Bi-State Construction tackled the stabilization quickly, and the towpath trail was reopened to visitors. In short order, the creation of a temporary water channel was undertaken to keep the Lehigh River water flowing southward. We very much appreciate that DCNR allowed this project, which endorses the value of keeping water in the Canal.
Formed with concrete Jersey barriers and plastic liner, the temporary channel has a limited water volume capacity. As this article is being written in early September, the Lehigh
River water has slowly made its way south from the Tinicum Aqueduct to Point Pleasant. We hope that it will make its way even farther, but the level of water in the Canal in the affected section will be low, a “maintenance level.”
DCNR has determined that the preferred course of action for the Tinicum Aqueduct and its problematic northern berm bank is to repair it for an estimated $327,000, rather than replace it. Currently there is no “project funding” available at the State level, so the project will not move forward. (Given the PA State budget dilemma, it’s hard to tell when that may be.) The “repair” decision is dismaying in that the replacement of the Tinicum Aqueduct, a low volume steel beam trough, will move low on the list of Canal structure improvements.
Additional water may be on its way to the Point Pleasant – New Hope section of the Canal if Forest Park Water, a partnership of the North Penn and North Wales Water Authorities, can allow some of the water from the Point Pleasant Pumping Station to be diverted into the Canal. The Canal use has been approved by the Delaware River Basin Commission, but the implementation had been delayed by Forest Park’s need to supply additional water to the Limerick nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, the Canal water levels in the north from Easton to Tinicum and in the south from the New Hope inlet to Bristol have been unusually high, due to this summer’s many rainfalls. In late August, the Delaware River did drop below the level of the New Hope inlet causing the levels in the southern end of the Canal to drop, but not to a level of concern. The Friends’ continue to pursue the installation of a centrifugal pump in the River adjacent to the Boy Scout camping area in the northern section of Washington Crossing Historic Park. This installation is currently being reviewed by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The centrifugal pump can augment the water level when the Canal is water starved by the River, usually for a few weeks in the summer. We’ve been very lucky this year to not have to deal with that problem.
The use of the centrifugal pump that has sometimes pulled Delaware River water into the Canal at Durham and a new pump installation at Marshall’s Island in Tinicum also will be considered by the Delaware River Basin Commission in November.
The good news for the middle section of the Canal is that the replacement of the Lower Limeport Bridge south of Centre Bridge is finished. It turned out well and features faux camelback trusses similar to those installed on the Redfield Bridge.
The bad news is that the Canal has gone dry from Centre Bridge to Lock 11 in New Hope twice in recent weeks. Once when a week’s worth of hot sunny days coincided with the Centre Bridge pump being turned off to allow Bi-State Construction to remove the temporary roadway at the Lower Limeport Bridge construction site. The second loss of water occurred when the Centre Bridge pump broke down. A new drive shaft for the impeller is being fabricated in Chicago, and the pump should be back in service by mid-September.
Progress is slowly being made on overcoming two of the Canal obstructions in the southern end of the Canal. Even though bids for the passageway through the Conrail embankment at the Morrisville Borough-Falls Township border came in $1.6 million higher than the allocated funding, PennDOT and DCNR have agreed to split the additional cost, so the project may move forward as soon as October.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission has agreed to cover the cost of the materials needed to construct a simple detour around the Tyburn Road obstruction. DCNR will provide the labor and equipment for the project. A Memorandum of Agreement for use and maintenance between PennDOT and DCNR is currently being reviewed by PennDOT at the Harrisburg level.
The Friends and the Delaware Canal State Park receive many calls about newly fallen trees or trees that have lain in the waterway for a long time. Ever since Hurricane Sandy, trees along the Canal have fallen weekly and sometimes daily. The Park maintenance staff’s first priority is to clear the towpath, and then clear the waterway as manpower, time, and equipment capabilities allow. A huge tree that has fallen into the Canal from an inaccessible berm bank property can sometimes require calling in a professional tree service. There simply have been more trees with which to deal than the Park can handle. Are there any tree services that would like to contribute a day or two of work along the Canal?
As always, the Friends carry on – planning, implementing and helping as friends do. We won’t be confounded.
What Shall We Call It?
There’s something new at the Black Rock Road Picnic Area in Yardley. In addition to the benches, the bulletin board, and the parking, there’s now a small, yet tall, white building standing at the northern edge of the property. Inside the white building is a blue plastic portable toilet, which seems to be a very welcome addition to the site. And how did all this come to be?
As you probably are well aware, the 58.9-mile-long Delaware Canal State Park has a distinct lack of bathroom facilities. Two full-service comfort stations were built in the early 2000’s – one at the Theodore Roosevelt Recreation Area in Raubsville and one at the Virginia Forrest Recreation Area in Solebury Township. A restroom facility, built by DCNR and maintained by the Borough of Morrisville, is located along the towpath just south of the Calhoun Street Bridge. There is also a restroom connected to the Maintenance Garage at the Park Headquarters in Upper Black Eddy. Portable toilets have been placed by the Park at the Forks of the Delaware Canal in Easton and in the Giving Pond parking lot in Tinicum Township. If the need arises at other locations, park visitors must use facilities in adjacent local parks, in nearby businesses, or resort to the never popular “green room.”
Inspired by the simple, but aesthetically pleasing portable toilet enclosures along the river shore in Oxford, Maryland, the Friends proposed a prototype project to Josh Swartley, the Park Manager. If the Park would agree to place and maintain a portable toilet at the popular Black Rock Road Picnic Area, the Friends would pay for the materials to build an enclosure similar to the ones in Oxford. Friends’ Canal Action Team aka CAT volunteers would build it.
Park officials thought it was worth a try and gave the go-ahead. Plans were finalized, materials ordered, and the e-mail was sent asking for volunteers interested in carpentry and painting. Ten people answered it. On Monday, July 24 a crew assembled at the Yardley Maintenance Area and started to cut the boards to size and stain them. Two workdays later, the fabricated panels were ready to be transported to Black Rock Road. One day of grading base stone and platform building was followed by erecting the walls and putting on the corrugated roof. Between four and seven volunteers participated on each workday, and, in a mere seven days, the enclosure was ready complete with a traditional quarter moon cutout.
The CAT volunteers brought their expertise and tools to the job and labored for a total of 228 hours.
MANY, MANY THANKS TO
and the Delaware Canal State Park Maintenance staff for transporting the panels, providing a generator, supplying the base stone, and being helpful in general.
A blue plastic portable toilet was installed inside the enclosure about a week after its installation. Two orange chrysanthemums now stand by the enclosure door welcoming those in need. The Park and the Friends hope that Park visitors will appreciate and respect the new handicapped accessible facility.
And now to the important question, what should the small, yet tall, white building be called? It began as an “aesthetically pleasing portable toilet enclosure,” a name that is much too long. While at work, the CAT volunteers dubbed it the “Potty Barn,” but it’s not really a barn and the Pottery Barn probably wouldn’t be too pleased. A “comfort station” seems to make it more than it is. There are at least two votes for “Potty with a Porch.” What would you name it?
A new Legacy Fund Challenge, established with personal funds from the Friends’ Board of Directors, was announced in the summer issue of Canal News, and three people have stepped up to meet that challenge. A long-time member once again demonstrated her support, a participant in one of our Paddling the Canal events donated, and Gordon and Barbara Heisler of Washington Crossing contributed shares of appreciated stock.
Accompanying the Heisler’s donation came this note:
“ We really enjoy the Canal and its surroundings a lot. We’ve had three houses, two in Lower Makefield and now one in Upper Makefield, and have never lived more than a half mile from it (always well higher than it, however). We ridden bikes on it for 35+ years and remember when the towpath was a 2-foot wide trail that would only accommodate one mountain bike at a time. It’s come so far. Last Saturday, when we saw the kayak paddlers, we had already encountered over 50 people using the towpath. It’s such an incredible resource for the area. The Friends have championed so many improvements and the post-flood rehabilitation projects that we are glad to be able to help out some.”
To date, the Legacy Fund Challenge has generated $4,350, of which $2,175 came from private contributions and $2,175 in matching funds from the Board. That means that $7,825 of the original $10,000 challenge is still waiting to be met.
Please don’t let this opportunity pass by. To contribute to the Legacy Fund Challenge, you may click here or mail your check to Friends of the Delaware Canal, 145 South Main Street, New Hope, PA 18938. Gifts of marketable securities or real estate, bequests, gifts from tax-deferred retirement plans and life insurance policies are also options.
You can help the Friends do more.
Park Manager’s Report
Let me start off by thanking the Friends of Delaware Canal for the new portable toilet enclosure that was built and installed at Black Rock Road. The volunteers put a lot of time and hard work into this project and should be commended for a job well done. Since the installation of the portable toilet into the enclosure, the new facilities have seen a significant amount of use and have provided a valuable amenity to the Park visitors in this area. Thank you!
Since my last report, Park staff have once again discovered multiple sinkholes in the Smithtown to Virginia Forrest Recreation Area of the Park. Repairs to these holes were completed at the end of August. This section of the Park tends to be a problem area with sinkholes, due to the canal bed being built only a few feet above the bedrock below. Sinkholes tend to form in areas of the bedrock that are fractured or where voids exist in the rock formations below. These voids and fractures allow water to flow under the canal liner which eventually erodes away and forms a sinkhole.
The new approach to fixing these sinkholes is to excavate down to bedrock, exposing the void and/or fracture. Then the area is filled with flowable concrete fill which seeps down into the voids and fractures, sealing them off to prevent water from flowing under the canal liner. This new approach has been in use since April of this year and, so far, appears to be successful.
Emergency repairs to the Tinicum Aqueduct have been completed. The towpath has been stabilized and reopened for public use along with stabilization work to the northern aqueduct abutment and wingwall. Park staff and a contractor were also able to install a temporary bypass at the aqueduct which allows for a minimal or maintenance flow of water to be sent through this section of the Canal. Final repairs will be forthcoming once funding has been allocated for this project.
Also, within the next year we anticipate several other projects starting along the Canal. They include the replacement of the Philips’ Mill Bridge in Solebury Township, replacement of the Kleinhans aqueduct in Williams Township, a pedestrian passageway through the Conrail embankment obstruction in Morrisville, and the rerouting of the trail around the Tyburn Road obstruction in Falls Township.
Enjoy the Canal!
Lack of Ghosts
For being 185-years-old, the Delaware Canal has surprisingly few ghost stories associated with it. There are no shortages of stories about less than stellar behavior – the goings on at Devil’s Half Acre and the brawling boatmen come to mind – but there seems to be a dearth of other worldly experiences.
In the spirit of Halloween, we ask you to use your imagination and share your ideas about where something spooky may have happened along the Canal and why it happened there.
We have no intentions of fabricating “new” history, but we would like to invite you to have some fun thinking about places along the Canal in a new way.
Send your haunting tales to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s Our 35th Anniversary!
In October, 1982, thirty people gathered at the former Towpath House Restaurant in New Hope for what would become the first official meeting of the Friends of the Delaware Canal. The group was led by Betty Orlemann, who each day peered through her kitchen window overlooking the Canal in Smithtown and realized that “the canal needs help.” In attendance at the first meeting were former legislators Jim Greenwood and Peter Kostmayer; then Park Manager, Gene Giza; former historian from the Easton Canal Museum, Lance Metz; Virginia Forrest, who had been instrumental in having the Canal designated a National Historic Landmark, and many other concerned residents. Betty Orlemann was elected as first President and today continues to call in regularly to get a personal report about what’s going on.
Much has happened during the past 35 years – a list much too long to be contained in this newsletter. There have been heartrending challenges like the floods and there have been uplifting successes that have made the Canal all the better. The Friends have worked hard and had a lot of fun along the way.
With the extraordinary support of our growing membership, business sponsors, volunteers, Board members, Delaware Canal State Park staff, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and all who take part in our numerous activities, the Canal moves closer to being the sustainable asset that it’s meant to be.
The Friends has evolved from a small grassroots organization to what it is today, a multi-faceted, vibrant organization that strives to sustain a link to our heritage, protect beautiful and diverse natural areas, and provide an array of educational and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Our members and volunteers take their stewardship very seriously and strive to ensure that this dynamic treasure remains in good stead for future generations.
Come to the Friends’ Annual Meeting on November 14th to see our Powerpoint presentation of photos taken during the last five years. It will highlight the highs and lows as the Canal and the Friends emerged from the flood years, as well as the excitement and satisfaction of creating new initiatives and activities. Will you see yourself?
He of Great Achievements
What do you call someone who is good at everything?
All-knowing Google wil lead you to the word “polymath” – a person known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.
The Friends’ answer is “Peter Sperry.”
We would like to pay tribute to Pete’s many achievements as he closes out his 15 years of service as a member of the Board of Directors. It is difficult to overstate Pete’s many lasting contributions to the Friends and the Delaware Canal. Since becoming involved with the Friends nearly 20 years ago, he has initiated and implemented complicated projects bringing his expertise as a scientist to bear.
He participated in myriads of meetings, programs, and events, and his evaluation and organizing skills smoothed the way through many a project. His focus is on effectively accomplishing things now and having them sustained into the future.
Two of Peter’s most remarkable achievements are the Delaware Canal Mile Marker project and the development of the Landmarks and Mileage Chart. He carried out each with his characteristic precision and tenacity.
The Mile Marker project was explained in detail in the summer issue of Canal News as Pete and volunteers embarked on replacing the markers that went missing or were damaged during the flood repair work.
Perhaps the most useful of Pete’s accomplishments is the development of the Landmarks and Mileage Chart that can be found on the Friends’ website. The chart encompasses the Canal’s full length from Bristol (Mile 0) to Easton (Mile 58.9). It provides distance information for landmarks along the Canal such as roadways, bridges, locks, aqueducts, parking areas, restrooms, historic sites, etc. Simply put, it lets you know what is where. It has proven to be an invaluable resource for Park visitors for trip planning purposes, for the Park staff and DCNR engineers, and for the Friends in planning early everything. A testament to the chart’s influence is that the State now refers to Park projects by their mileage location.
In November, 2014, Ellen Ferretti, former Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, presented Pete with a special award for his outstanding dedication and performance as a volunteer, especially noting his work on these two projects.
Pete has never failed to step up to a camelback bridge repair and painting project, enjoys the challenge of working with data, especially if it results in the Friends’ getting new members, and he is a champion of the Legacy Fund, which ensures the future of our organization. And to top it all off, he served as as Board President in 2005 and as Treasurer from 2006-2017.
Pete’s departure from the Board of Directors will leave a huge void, but the Friends are very pleased that he, his wife Barbara, and his family will continue to be active members of our organization.
We are forever grateful for Peter Sperry’s help!