Friday, April 8, 2011

Ground Breaks on Arts Trail Along Bushkill Creek Named for Sculptor Karl Stirner

Judge Gay Elwell and metal sculptor, Karl Stirner 
for whom the trail is named.

Posted by: Noël Jones

About 80 people gathered yesterday for the groundbreaking for the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. It was an impressive display of hooplah, complete with a backhoe hovering over a freshly dug pile of dirt (carefully arranged on a blue tarp) and speakers blaring pop music, as the trolley continued to arrive in shifts, shuttling attendees from where they parked at the old Hummel Lumber yard. 

When the man of the hour, Karl Stirner, and his partner, Judge Gay Elwell arrived, it was a bit of a red carpet moment, with all cameras rushing in the direction of the trolley. I have to say that although Karl Stirner was the star of the event, Gay Elwell was looking fabulous (see above). This is certainly one of Easton's "power couples." And they both have really cool glasses. But I am getting carried away...

The Karl Stirner Arts Trail will wind along Bushkill Creek, connecting the old Simon Silk Mill on 13th street with Third Street downtown where the trail lets out just at the base of the stone stairs up to Lafayette, and will have art installations along the walkway. 

Mayor Panto started off the event with a moment of silence for a great Easton resident that had passed away the night before--Robin Porter--and the mayor talked about the positive effects that people like Robin Porter and Karl Stirner have had on Easton, by seeing its potential and committing
vision and creative energy to the place they chose to make their home. State Representative Bob Freeman spoke in a similar vein, about how much a community member like Robin Porter will be missed, and how happy he was to be honoring Karl Stirner's work on this new project, "We are just scratching the surface of the great potential of this community--its great people, great assets and unbounded potential...Karl, like Robin Porter, saw the potential of this community from the moment they arrived here."(I would like to interject here that this was nice to hear, considering many "old-timers" in Easton still refer to people who have been here over 25 years as "newcomers.")

This trail will be unique, and a great addition to the community in a few ways:

First, the trail will highlight and weave together both the natural and urban environments Easton has to offer. It's easy when hanging out at the restaurants in Center Square to forget that some of the finest trout fishing in the country happens in Bushkill Creek, just a few blocks away, and that one can slip away on a whim and disappear into a wooded environment along the sparkling creek. 

Along with Karl Stirner's sculptures, there will be other world class art pieces along the trail, obtained through the Arts in Urban Environments Festival coming to Easton this summer, funded by an NEA grant that has drawn 75 applications from artists of international renown. 

Additionally, as the mayor pointed out, the trail will also feature Easton's first dog park, with separate penned areas for bigger dogs and smaller dogs to play with other dogs their size.  

All of this will be great for the town, both in terms of tourism, socializing and providing an attractive setting for exercise, or simply enjoying nature. And WDIY has pledged to plant one new tree along the Bushkill for every new membership of $88.10 or higher that comes in, so now you have another good reasons to support public radio!

A lot of attention was given during the various speeches to the fact that the project couldn't have happened without $11 million of state money that was originally approved by Governor Rendell, and which was just recently reinstated by our new governor, Tom Corbett. Senator Mensch could not make the event, but sent someone to represent his office, and he was also supportive of this project, along with Representative Bob Freeman. So, amazingly, this has been deemed a worthy project by both state Democrats and Republicans alike.

I was impressed that everyone kept their speeches mercifully short, and eventually Karl Stirner got up to the podium to speak. He was even briefer in his address, and emphasized the need to set the bar high. "We should hold out for the best--if there's only one exhibit of quality then we should only show one's a well-known fact that if artists of lower quality are included, artists of higher quality will not participate."

I have to agree. As someone who is consistently frustrated with the unspoken agreement among most people in this town to give everything five stars (as if giving an earnest review would be disloyal to a town that is on the rebound) it was music to my ears. All that happens when we do that is that the bar gets lower and lower until there is no bar at all. I say set it high. Really high. We've got the creative human resources and the assets in this town to do it, and do it right.

Construction will begin on the 13th street end of the trail, according to Becky Bradly, Director of Planning for the City of Easton, and will continue into the more urban parts of the trail downtown, once construction on the Bushkill Street bridge is complete.

Vice-Mayor Elinor Warner told me that the target date for completion of the trail is Labor Day. I can't wait--I supposed natural half of the trail starting from 13th Street might be open sooner in the summer, but I will have to post about that as the project develops.


Anonymous said...

This will be a great park for the city blending art and open space. Kudos to all who made it happen. I was also delighted to hear the Mayor say they secured another $2million for the Silk Mill and that construction on the boulevard and street will start later this year or early next.

Easton is a cool place.

A. Nonny Muss said...

Art and open space is a great concept. Ain't it great when a sometimes dysfunctional group gets it right?
I bet that this job will be done well, but I have to point out that Mike Krill (some years back) promoted this idea and wanted it to continue through town, up St. Johns St, all the way to I-78; a funnel to channel folks downtown from both ends.
My high-energy dog and I look forward to enjoying somebody's tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Seems like Mr. Krill had all the ideas.......hmmm I wonder why they are coming out now.

Some people have ideas about what can be done and others sit back and wait for someone else to do them.

That's my take on Mr. Krill.

As for going all the way up St. John St. to I-78 the current mayor is already doing that as well with a $3.75 million grant from PennDOT.....start date spring 2012. Read the paper or attend the public meetings and you would know that.

I was at most of the public meetings and didn't see him there at any of them.

Let's not make this wonderful trail political.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 8:33. Let's not make something as nice as the trail political. I also agree that some may have good ideas but sit back and watch others actually do it. This is my take on many Eastonians. And yes, Krill is one of them. Complain, complain but do nothing positive - only expresses the negative.

noel jones said...

I am really hoping that this new trail and the fix-up parks along the river will get Eastonians out and WALKING this summer. We are so lucky to have all of this access to nature right here in our city--Easton is a very special place unlike most in the U.S. in that it has this geographical offering that makes it unique. A walking city is a vibrant city, and as compact and walkable as Easton is, with the farmers market, the theater fringe festival and the NEA arts festival happening, in addition to these new trails, I'm anticipating that this will be Easton's most vibrant summer in a long time! Not to mention Movies at the Mill in the fall...

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Parks are important components of a livable and sustainable city. We have been fortunate to upgrade almost all of our neighborhood parks this past year through almost a million dollars in grants. Add to that the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and the Waterfront more than $6 million in open space and parks improvements. In the neighborhoods I am most proud of the Sullivan Park upgrade which helped rid a neighborhood of storm water flooding. It is a great space and everyone should visit it.

Also, the spray park at Heil Pool should be a big hit this year. The Heil Park Master Plan will be unveiled later this year. We just secured a grant for almost $300,000 to initiate Phase I.

Now for walking. Noel you are correct. Our city is a walking city ans we have to continue to explore walking and biking. We have joined First Lady Obama's 'Let's Move" campaign and you will hear more about that in a a week or two. Our goal is to get youth and adults to move at least 30 minutes per day.

I am really looking forward to the arts trail. It is a wonderful place to get lost in your imagination. It will be peaceful and passive.

noel jones said...

I want to see people walking all over this city, all the time. By the rivers, on the new arts trail, around the circle throughout neighborhoods, with dogs, with children, with earbuds--I don't care. It makes a city vibrant and healthy and attractive and makes those who visit a town want to move there--especially when they see a lot of activity in the circle and along the rivers because it's the first thing they see when they enter the city from the NJ side.

I have a neighbor half a block from me, who has lost 90 POUNDS--just from walking daily from the West Ward to the Giant and back with her mp3 player, enjoying the weather. I'm interested to know more about Michelle Obama's initiative--I have been hearing about it in a general way for a year now, but not in detail. I know she's a big supporter of getting people to grow their own organic food in their yards and community gardens and especially in teaching kids how to grow and cook with fresh produce.

By the way, I went walking again this past weekend with three friends along Riverside, Scott and Delaware parks and was really happy to see how many families were out with their kids. I'm still wondering how many people are using the river parks during the week after work, and my friend said she has seen an uptick since the weather started getting a little warmer in the past week. She also said that she has seen people using it during the day, on lunch breaks, etc. That is really good news--I hope that as the weather gets warmer that more and more people start using the parks regularly, so that we have a consistent resident presence on the river--this is a RIVER TOWN. We've got to flaunt what we've got--and enjoy the fact that it's fun, healthy and FREE. Nobody other city has both the Lehigh AND the Delaware in their back yard.

As for walking in neighborhoods, especially in the West Ward, we need some serious sidewalk repair, and to get some of our storefronts de-converted again...when you can get stuff you need within a couple of blocks from home, it encourages walking traffic. Not everyone is going to be as industrious as my neighbor and walk to Giant for groceries--with or without the 90 pounds!

Ian Nutting/Stirner said...

wife not partner

Ian Nutting/Stirner said...

I mean Gay Elwell is his wife.