Lower Saucon recreation area renamed after township council member
LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. — A huge plot of land in Lower Saucon known for hiking, birdwatching, fishing and other activities has gotten a name change — and opinions are mixed.
The former golf course is now a recreation area and more, taking up just under 146 acres along Countryside Lane.
- Council voted 3-1 to name a recreation area after current member Sandra Yerger
- Some residents felt it was a political move, as a November election approaches
- New signs are coming, and the township website already reflects the change
With a vote by Lower Saucon Township Council on Wednesday, the area now is named after a current council member: Sandra Yerger.
Council voted 3-1 to change the name from Woodland Hills Preserve to “Sandra Yerger Community Recreation Area and Nature Preserve.”
Member Priscilla deLeon opposed, and member Sandra Yerger abstained.
“No hurry to change the sign, believe me,” Yerger said after the vote, laughing.
The proposal came to council through the township parks and recreation board.
Honoring Yerger's service
Council Vice President Mark Inglis, who serves as council liaison to the parks and recreation board, said the panel appreciates the work Yerger has done over the years.
She has served in various roles, most specifically as founding member of the township environmental action committee.
“She’s been around a long time and has done a lot of nice things — and we thank her for that. We need more people like that around.”Lower Saucon Township Council Vice President Mark Inglis
“She’s been around a long time and has done a lot of nice things — and we thank her for that,” Inglis said. “We need more people like that around.”
Council President Jason Banonis listed some of Yerger’s credentials:
- Council member for more than 20 years
- Founding member of the township environmental action committee
- Founder of township Open Spaces program
- Headed the acquisition of the former Woodland Hills Golf Course
“She’s very modest about this,” Banonis said. “I think this is a tremendous honor for a tremendous person.
“No one’s done more for the township, and I couldn’t agree more,” Councilman Thomas Carocci said. “It’s just so appropriate.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I hardly didn’t expect this for obvious reasons, and I don’t know whether to thank parks and recreation for it or not. But I do respect their wishes.”Lower Saucon Township Council member Sandra Yerger
“I’m overwhelmed,” Yerger said. “I hardly didn’t expect this for obvious reasons, and I don’t know whether to thank parks and recreation for it or not. But I do respect their wishes.”
Comments from residents
Resident Andrea Wittchen said she saw the naming as a “blatantly political maneuver,” as another election is coming in November and Yerger is on the Republican slate.
Wittchen said that, in her opinion, Yerger has “led no significant movement” in her EAC role.
“It’s generally imprudent to name things after living people,” Wittchen said.
After the meeting's public comment segment, Banonis directly addressed that point and said naming things after living people is nothing new.
He referenced the President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Expressway in Scranton, Edward N. Cahn U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Allentown and the Anderson campus of St. Luke’s University Health Network, named for Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson.
“It’s generally imprudent to name things after living people.”Andrea Wittchen, township resident
Mark Ozimek said the park should be named in honor of Citizens for Responsible Development-Lower Saucon Township. That grassroots group of local residents has spearheaded the legal battle over a potential rezoning of land and possible expansion of Bethlehem Landfill.
“They’re the ones that are trying to save the land and clean up the act around here,” Ozimek said.
How spaces are named
Yerger has voted in opposition of rezoning land near the landfill that would pave the way for an expansion of the dump.
Lynn Hill said she agreed with Wittchen and Ozimek.
“It seems like a blatant attempt at greenwashing a candidate to me,” Hill said.
JoEllen Thompson said she didn’t wish to question Yerger’s accomplishments during her time on her respective boards and township council, but instead wanted to get clarification on how officials go about renaming public spaces.
“I would just like to remind Sandra that the vast majority of the people in the township are grateful for everything you’ve done — for us, for them — and the work that you have tirelessly, tirelessly done on behalf of us for so many years."Township Parks and Recreation Board chairman David Spirk
David Spirk, chairman of the township’s parks and recreation board, spoke to Yerger directly.
“I would just like to remind Sandra that the vast majority of the people in the township are grateful for everything you’ve done — for us, for them — and the work that you have tirelessly, tirelessly done on behalf of us for so many years,” Spirk said.
The township acquired the land in 2014 using Open Space Program funds as well as county and state assistance, according to the township website.