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January 15, 2018
Rediscover the South Bethlehem Greenway
Happy New Year readers! As some of us buckle-up to go full speed into the new year with resolutions, others are choosing to slow down. Let me elaborate in the context of our city. As South Bethlehem evolves every year, some are embracing all the new entities sprouting up. They are running to every new establishment while others are slowing down appreciating some of the old staples of the neighborhood that have remained consistent and familiar. One staple of our great South Side is the South Bethlehem Greenway, which is a wonderful blend of the old and the new to celebrate in the new year.
The South Bethlehem Greenway is a seemingly modest trail through Bethlehem’s South Side. It links the city’s neighborhoods to the business district. Over the years most use it as a safe means of transportation to bike, jog, or walk, sans a lot of traffic. I have also heard the Greenway classified as a “linear park” which is a fantastic description! There are far too many interesting features of the Greenway to classify it merely as a pathway—like art, entertainment, and beer. Yes, beer!
Two of the many noteworthy portions of the Greenway are between Taylor and Webster Street and Polk and Taylor Street. These portions take on such life during the year as grounds for urban sustainability, diversity education, art appreciations, and social gatherings.
The Greenway quadrant between Taylor Street and Webster is formally named The Esperanza Garden. “Esperanza” in Spanish means “hope” which is an appropriate theme for this area because of what it provides to the South Side. One is a community garden. Here, there are raised beds to harvest fruits and vegetables. Across from the beds are fourteen newly-planted fruit trees that should bear peaches, pears, apples, and many other fruits in a few short years. All of this was developed with the intent to provide crops to families in need and help educate the community about food production and environmental sustainability. The garden is a great way to breed a happier, healthier, and more sustainable community in Bethlehem’s South Side. This is all a part of the South Side Initiative of Lehigh University to bring urban agriculture into our everyday lives.
Next to the community garden is the Lehigh-Bethlehem Harmony Pavilion. Many have seen this wooden structure in their travels, but have you ever stopped to read about it? Completed in 2013, the structure was built by Lehigh faculty and students as a symbol of the University’s history with China. The group worked with the University and the city to design and construct a traditional Chinese pavilion that could be used to bridge the community and provide a place of shade and reflection along the Greenway.
Along side of the Pavilion also sits the Native Blue Heron. The statue by Virginia Abbot is composed of recycled materials. On the heron’s chest an old toaster and colander can be spotted along with wires wrapped around gears and bobbles from old goods. The material composition is fitting as the blue heron is a symbol of balance and the ability to evolve. The statue is reducing waste to promote a better living by providing us with art. The statue’s installation marked the completion of phase one of the development of the South Bethlehem Greenway back in 2011.
If you cross over Taylor Street you will be in the another portion of the Greenway—Polk and Taylor Street. If you continue down the trail you will see a box fixed to a post. This is a Free Little Library. A what, you asked? A Free Little Library is a community book exchange where you can take a book, leave a book, or both. Grab a book and enjoy a read along the trail, preferably when it warms up out there!
Lastly, a gem that stands between both Greenway quadrants is Bonn Place Brewing—yes, the beer as previously mentioned. You can walk the trail and take a brewsky break at the brewery. I used to do yoga at The Yoga Loft and I would walk along the Greenway to meet my husband for a pint afterward. The place is a friendly hub that facilitates warm conversations with strangers. So during this brisk January weather you can defrost in your travels. Also during the summer Bonn hosted The Flying V food tent who served up warm poutine. The aroma was heavenly along the Greenway. Speaking of food, the Greenway also hosts events throughout the year such as VegFest, a street festival celebrating vegan food, which will occur July 14th this summer.
The Greenway is such a main artery of the SouthSide and a great way to sample what they have to offer! In fact, Norman Girardot, the co-director of the aforementioned Lehigh-Bethlehem Harmony Pavilion, said that, “The Greenway is rapidly becoming a vital recreational and connecting avenue for the diverse social life on the South Side—bringing residents together with students, merchants, artists, and visitors.” He continued to say, “It is rapidly becoming a symbol of meaningful civic life in Bethlehem. This was the hope of those who created the Greenway and also for those of us at Lehigh who built the Chinese pavilion as a gift to the community.”
So many community members now enjoy all of the gifts the Greenway has to offer as I notice more and more foot traffic along the trail. So as we welcome 2018, let’s also take a moment to appreciate the new and the old and what has yet to come to the great South Side!