Childs Park, Road Conditions Top Meeting with DWGNRA Superintendent
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch - Thursday, April 18, 2019
DINGMANS FERRY -- Sula Jacobs, appointed Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area superintendent by the National Park Service in September, accepted an invitation by the Delaware Township Board of Supervisors to attend its meeting to hear ideas and concerns and commit to residents' interests.
"I think it's important we all come up with a solution," said Jacobs, referring to questions such as when the restoration work in Childs Park located in the township will be complete for it to reopen. Jacobs could not specify when that might happen after the multi-million dollars worth of damage from the two nor'easters that struck the area in early March last year.
"We've closed it (Childs Park) to work on the outbuilding, the large amount of trail that has fallen away, huge amounts of work," Jacobs said. "We've closed it to make the right changes."
Jacobs made a lot of points and wrote down many of them as she has been seen doing in meetings with community leaders and residents
"You invited me to be here. I will get here," Jacobs said in her opening remarks. "It (her new job) is coming back home. I grew up in Sullivan County, New York nearby and spent a lot of time in the park. I know I've cared so significantly about the resources. I'm from the area; I know about the economy."
Jacobs worked previously since 2014 at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. She succeeds John Donahue, who retired as DWGNRA superintendent at the end of 2017.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson expressed satisfaction about the meeting afterward.
"What I get out of it is she is open to working with the township on a personal basis freely with the federal government, which is a breath of fresh air, although I did (also) have that relationship (in the past) with John Donahue, " Henderson said. "I'm pleasantly surprised we have that relationship (with the NPS) again."
During the meeting, which took up nearly all of the scheduled hour-long workshop before the regular meeting, Henderson asked about the potholes along Route 209 through the park caused by winter weather that recently have raised concerns for motorists.
"I have asked for emergency repair work (on the federal level) on the worst of them," Jacobs said. "We did the best we could do and will work on it (ourselves) over the summer. The work we do can only help so much. There's a holdup on the (federal) funding."
Jacobs said a lot of the makeshift patch work being done locally could break down again shortly, particularly in the crown of the road where it is difficult to repair the damaged grids used to alert motorists drifting to the other side of the road.
"The ultimate goal (of the NPS) is to shut down Route 209 to commercial traffic. Is it still the ultimate goal," asked
township Attorney Thomas Farley, who also asked when that might happen.
"The NPS is restrictive on commercial vehicles. We can't control (its) legislation," Jacobs said. "We have to follow the (U.S.) Department of the Interior and the NPS policy. The policy is expiring soon and we have to go by that national policy."
Also discussed was the deteriorating, dangerous condition of Wilson Hill Road as a crosstown access to Route 209. Its maintenance is shared in some areas by the National Park Service and in others by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the township.
"We're actually working on it. There's nothing to communicate further," said Jacobs. "We're definitely moving forward. It's a priority."
Part of that roadway on the eastern end falls under the NPS up to a gate that has been closed during emergencies, which is located farther in off Route 209 than other gates built on side roads. All of them were installed a couple of years ago.
"What is the philosophy of the gates? Why have the gates," Henderson asked. "When are they opened and closed? I know when John Donahue was superintendent he said it's to protect people from themselves."
"It's during major accidents," Jacobs said. "To divert traffic is one of the potential uses of the gates."
She added, "They are closed for the protection of visitors."
Supervisor Jane Neufeld said the township needs to be notified when gates are closed so residents don't travel down those roads form State Route 2001/Milford Road, only to have to turn around as they approach Route 209.
The supervisors said, when asked afterward, that they are still exploring the idea whether to install their own gates at the top, western ends of those roadways that would be shut when the NPS closes its gates.
They also discussed the Heller Farm on Route 209 that once had a store selling fresh grown produce to visitors, with an honor box.
"It's not that I'm against that. It doesn't have the right opportunity," Jacobs said.
Jacobs and the supervisors discussed the National Park Service's planned barricading of Doodle Hollow Road to vehicles during summer months. Although the road is owned by the township, the land on both sides is part of the DWGNRA. Supervisors mentioned in past discussions about dedicating the road to the NPS but they and Jacobs agreed to further discussion.
When that workshop segment opened to public discussion, Max Brinson of the Friends of Marie Zimmerman nonprofit read a heartfelt statement about the Zimmerman homestead and farm that has been closed to the public since 2017, except for one annual Marie Zimmerman Day open house. Brinson pressed for the homestead to again be opened for tours on summer weekends.
Brinson told Jacobs that the nonprofit has raised $2 million in public funding and $400,000 in private donations and talked about how the homestead had become a meaningful part of the local community.
Brinson said afterward his group has waivered in its commitment because of the closing of the homestead by the NPS. It has a six-member board and its general membership has 20 volunteers.
"It's hard to keep people interested when it's closed," Brinson said. "It's a shame. There's a real push from Washington D.C. (where the National Park office is headquartered) to lease properties in the park for 10 years."
Brinson said he has a followup meeting scheduled with Jacobs this week.
During the regular meeting, supervisors approved quarterly reports on the General Fund and Recreation Fund. When asked afterward about the state of the General Fund at this point versus the budget passed in December, Neufeld said, "It looks good. Our spending ties in with the season. We're doing pretty well. I'm not at all unhappy
with where we are in the first quarter."
The board unanimously approved a $2,912.88 reimbursement request by the township volunteer fire company from the township's $16,000 annual fire company allocation to buy collapsible traffic cones and needed equipment. It also allotted $1,949.03 to the fire company for its first-quarter tax distribution.
Supervisors agreed to notify Dingman Township that they are accepting the updated boundary line information that Dingman sent to them.
The board unanimously approved donating two port-o-johns and to provide traffic control for the Dingmans Ferry Lions Club's Fishing Contest at Egli Pond on Route 739 from noon to 3 p.m. on April 27. Rain date is the following day. The Lions Club, in a letter to the supervisors, said approval of the port-o-johns is a $1,200 savings. Over 300 trout are stocked, with prizes awarded to the three largest fish caught, and children receive hot dogs and a soda and a prize for attending.
It also approved field use by the Pike County Women's Softball League from June 3-Aug. 4 from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sundays and from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
An update on the Blue Ridge Communication franchise agreement up for renewal was tabled until the next meeting as more information is gathered.