Recently, received an article written by a long-time resident of Bethlehem Township that she titled "The Truth about Green Pond Marsh." In line with some of the things she writes in her article, we feel that there are other reasons, besides the purely environmental reasons, for not destroying Green Pond Marsh. One of the most important, in this day and age, is that to destroy or diminish any of the few unique natural habitats left in our area is an unpatriotic act. The desecration of Green Pond Marsh will undoubtedly be harmful to our children's ability, and their children's ability, to "experience the uncontaminated purity and value of nature."*

"The Truth about Green Pond Marsh"

     by a long time resident of Bethlehem Township.

I thought I was in a Disney movie once… a gigantic full moon was rising over icy cornfields in February. Six children skated on a frozen pond under the moonlight, their shouts echoed in the cold air, their breath freezing in little puffs as they played hockey under the moonlight. Peace enveloped me as I sat on a log on the edge of the ice and watched and listened to happy kids playing. The huge moon hung in a starlit sky brilliantly sparkling like only winter air can make it.

But… this wasn’t Disney.  It was Bethlehem Township and I was at Green Pond. Everything else I said was real:  the moon was a beauty, big and sailing over the frozen marshy cornfield across the road. The kids were mine, plus a random one or two I brought. We had the ice to ourselves, although someone had shoveled a hockey rink free of snow earlier in the day.

Green Pond is a true gem in our area. I wish it were not located in Bethlehem Township, but it is. On one side of a dippy road is shallow pond that freezes over quickly and is perfect for skating and on the other side is an open field of cropland with shallow pools fed by the pond that sustain migratory birds. Over 160 different types of birds eat, rest, hunt in those vernal pools, pools that fill in the wet seasons and dry out in the dry season. Kids skate, birds feed, dogs flounder across the mud chasing Canadian geese by the hundreds. They never catch any.

The truth about Green Pond is this:  in 14,000 years – the only things humans have done to this land was build a small road and plant crops.  Otherwise it remains unchanged since the last ice age.

But the truth is also this:  Currently, some of the people governing Bethlehem Township are self-serving humans who feel they are allowed to change this land no one else has changed in all time. People who think themselves more important than God’s other creations. People who think their time on earth is an okay time to ruin something unspoiled for 14,000 years. They are ignorant idiots, but unfortunately they are ignorant idiots that are leading our township right now.  

The problem? Money. Someone owns that land and wants to make money in their time on this Earth. After they die, who cares what happens? He or She only needs the money while He or She is alive now.

The truth about Bethlehem Township is that it has always been in favor of development, wherever and whenever and however it can get the land, even sleazily if it has to. In the 60’s, insider corruption allowed a low-income HUD-style development built in an area zoned for private homes. The Steve Lane Garden Apartments on Freemansburg Avenue for 5 decades have housed thieves who prey on the surrounding neighbors and a guy who hung himself in the unheated garage he lived in.  

In the 70’s, the Archibald Johnson Conservation area was established by the generosity of the land owners and deemed undevelopable. A mere generation later, BT officials tried to rezone the conserved flood prone area for development, a move that made one astute Council member say to his fellow members:  “Can’t we have at least one parcel of land in BT left alone?”

In the 90’s home building on farmland was all the rage until the township realized that taxes brought in from homeowners is actually less than it costs the township to support those homes. Then it starting courting businesses and stores. Stores don’t have to send kids to school. Stores plow their own lots. Stores are a lot richer than middle American families.

But it was in the 2000’s, that a development so atrocious to humankind was approved by Bethlehem township that it resulted in a state law against anyone ever doing such a heinous thing again. The Barbosa Mobile Home Park used to stand in a thick grove of mature trees in Miller Heights.  Jim Deegan of the Express times summed it up well in his October 28, 2012 article:

"The bill sprang from Northampton County, where in 2006 about 50 families discovered they’d have to uproot everything and move within weeks from the Barbosa Mobile Home Park in the Miller Heights section of Bethlehem Township.

Some of the Barbosa residents had lived decades there, with everything they owned tucked between the prefab walls of a 60-foot-long trailer. Under previous rules, they had 30 days to vacate and no required help in paying to move.

[The Law] requires manufactured home community owners to inform residents within 60 days of any decision to close; gives them at least six months, not 30 days, to leave once the closure notice is given; pays them up to $4,000 in relocation expenses for a single home and $6,000 for a multi-section one; and pays at least $2,500 or the home’s appraised value, whichever is greater, for those unwilling or unable to relocate."

A sadder irony is that the tumult created by the Barbosa Mobile Home Park didn’t have to be. Six years after the condo plans went public, the tract has no trailers. It doesn’t have condominiums either. Weeds and mounds of dirt cover the property now — one of many Ashley Development projects that petered out.

That is Bethlehem Township folks. So if you think there are kindly individuals on the committees that may champion your right for land conservation, stop dreaming.  
There are mostly only individuals who want to sell / develop every piece of township land in return for money.  

Please, if you don’t fight for the land, the birds and kids don’t stand a chance. If the elderly and poor can be evicted by Bethlehem Township, by God, evicting the birds and wildlife will be a piece of cake. Then once again, Bethlehem Township crushes any innocents who stand in its way. 

Thus, the truth about the efforts to stop construction in Green Pond Marsh are this: someone already bought the land in order to make money off it.

Who owns that tract? It is not publicized who owns that land right now, no one seems to know. I’m sure that is just fine with them and I am sure they are not interested in losing the money they spent to acquire that land by preservation of it.

This is why we can’t take the following avenues that others have:

  • Farmland Preservation: Land must be donated to the program by the owners.  
  • Open Space Initiative of Northampton County: Again, the land must be donated by the owner.
  • Historical Preservation: The artifacts found are not significant enough to start that ball rolling.
  • Birding Societies and Audubon Society: Preservation advice is ignored completely by the self-concerned ignoramuses.
  • Marshland Protection: The land cannot be tagged as marshland, which needs a brittle edge along the marsh to sustain breeding habitats.
  • Wetland Protection: Yes the land qualifies as a wetland by the PA Dept of Environmental Protection. But then the owners will not be able to get their money out of it if designated as such. Since their side has the most time, resources and money to fight this designation, our side with people who have day jobs, families and farms is not so strong.

The truth about Green Pond Marsh is that this is not the first time development was fought against. And it will not be the last. Some tired of the fight now cynically say “its just because the neighbors don’t want it to be developed”.  

Of course the neighbors want to preserve it, but it is not just the neighbors. Many, many people want to preserve it. I skated on the pond and in the cornfields as a kid.  My kids skated the pond and cornfields. I want their kids to skate the pond and cornfields and look for bird nests and arrowheads and watch egrets and herons come and go. I want them to test the crackly ice in the cornfield with the toe of their skate and have it go all the way through into the water and soak their foot. I want to stop the car in awe to watch a bird I have never seen. I want every hungry migratory bird and butterfly and insect that has the location of the marsh bred into it’s very genes to continue to find the marsh each year.

But the truth is, many of the people on the Board of Directors and the Planning Commission have personal interests in developing as much of Bethlehem Township as they can in their lifetime. I think the land will run out sooner than their greed.

The Greedy People With Selfish Wants vs butterflies, birds, and children. That is the final truth about the Green Pond Marsh issue. 


* New York Times article, by Robb Willer 3/1/15 

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