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Visioning the Upper Delaware River Corridor   

[The following remarks were delivered by Pike County Historian George J. Fluhr at the 2005 at reception for NPS Director Mainella at the Inn at Lackawaxen on July 23.]

What’s Special About This Place


What’s special about this place? We are in the Upper Delaware Corridor. And the history of the counties, towns and townships that are part of this corridor is extensive. More than a dozen American Presidents have ties to the area. Glassware from White Mills in Wayne County has graced the tables of several of our Presidents. Lincoln’s blood stains the American flag at the Historical Society in Milford. Famous writers have lived and worked here. Among them are Zane Grey, Stephen Crane, Ned Buntline, and Charles Saunders Peirce, Grey Towers near Milford, is the birthplace of the American conservation movement. Honesdale is the birthplace of the American Railroad. Here Dan Beard founded a Boy Scout Camp, Horace Greeley started a commune, and an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution is buried here. Here John Roebling studied river currents and designed three Delaware River Bridges, before he constructed the Brooklyn Bridge. Here movies were made, beer was brewed, and stone was quarried for the sidewalks of New York. The discoverer of the North Pole, was it Cooke or Peary? Both have ties to this region. And local archeological finds date back over 4,000 years.

The center piece of it all is the Delaware River. It was first traversed by canoes, then plied by Durham Boats carrying supplies, then ridden by lumber rafters. In the nineteenth century the river was bounded on one side by the Delaware and Hudson Canal running from Honesdale to the Hudson River and on the other by the Erie Railroad, Thus, down the river valley, was transported the lumber and coal which built the cities of America.

Two hundred years ago the land along the Upper Delaware had just emerged from a generation, suffering through the French & Indian War, the Pennsylvania-Connecticut War, the New York-New Jersey War and the American Revolution. By 1800 there were Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans from a dozen countries living along the river.

One hundred years ago, a brochure read “The famous one hundred miles of beauty" from Port Jervis to Deposit is of special interest to summer-home seekers, for several reasons: The healthful atmosphere, the pure water, the calm of the lovely valley, the gentle music of the flowing river, the inspira­tion of the overhanging hills, the unspeakable change of it all from the conditions of city life, appeal to thousands; while for those who for fishing, boating and canoeing are particularly partial to the neighborhood of a river, there are many points which are ideal” And tens of thousands of New Yorkers came here to vacation.

The river was crossed in a dozen places by ferries, then bridges, and of course is now followed by Scenic By-way Route 97. The Delaware River, with the canal and railroad, was the lifeblood of not only this area but of industrial United States of the nineteenth century.

For generations the Upper Delaware has been loved, appreciated, and taken care of by those who have lived along it.

We began by asking what is special about this place. In addition to the history, the beauty of the mountains, the purity of the water, the fish, the eagles, the deer and the bears there is another very special thing about this valley. It is special because many people, over many years found a special way that the governments - federal, state, and local – could work together with property owners and citizen groups to preserve the river and the land along it.

The people of the Upper Delaware have long had a tradition of being protective of private property rights. A family that has held land a long time has a special relationship to that land. Indeed, not only hunters and fishermen, but also those who would hike in the woods, or explore historic or scenic spots are still well advised to first ask permission of the property owner.

In 1968 the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act frightened many local people into thinking that the river valley would be condemned and confiscated. The wake of the extensive confiscation on the middle Delaware for the Tocks Island project had left a powerful emotional legacy of fear of the Park Service.

The 1978 designation of the Upper Delaware as a National Scenic and Recreational River was seen as the first step in a federal land grab on the Upper Delaware. But at the same time many residents and local government officials were concerned about the intense unpoliced use of the river by canoeists, as well as the long-range potential for construction of dams and environmentally objectionable industry along the banks. The question was asked, “ Would it be possible to protect the Upper Delaware without confiscation?

The NPS Carroll Report clearly summarized the situation, saying that the federal presence was the subject of prolonged and highly publicized conflict which came eventually to pit a segment of Valley residents against the NPS, their Congressional representatives, as well as some of their own political leaders and neighbors.

Then the people of the Upper Delaware found a better way, a way that would make this area very special in the annals of government.

The Upper Delaware became a National Scenic and Recreational River, but the land along it did not become a national park. Rather, a unique cooperative management arrangement was made. The Upper Delaware Council, whose members include the governments and agencies which have responsibilities in the corridor, was set up as a partnership for the protection of the river, the corridor land that affects it, and the rights of the local property owners. The continuation of the private ownership of land was guaranteed by special statutory provisions, which specifically limit the amount of land that may be acquired by the Federal Government.

On the Middle Delaware, the river had been protected by creating a national park, but on the Upper Delaware, not a park, but a component of the National Park System was created. Rangers were to have jurisdiction on the river surface, not on the private land. This distinction became critically important a few years ago when a proposal to merge the Upper and Middle Delaware administrations almost re-ignited old animosities.

The results of the partnership have been impressive. Work of the Park Service in cooperation with private enterprise and citizens groups made the river safer. Funding to local government made trash collection and police patrols possible. Through the Upper Delaware Council grants became available for local governments to develop special zoning ordinances. Historical research, pamphlets, and river user guides were also funded. Boat launch areas and Eagle Watch areas were identified. Most importantly the Upper Delaware Council provided review and recommendations regarding proposed developments and commercial ventures that might impact the river. And very significantly, the Roebling Bridge closed to vehicular traffic for ten years, a topic which had been raised in almost every public meeting during those years, was reconstructed and reopened by the Park Service.

In 1989, Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall, speaking to the Upper Delaware Council in Matamoras validated the process saying “This an important work that you are doing. I commend you for it, and I'm glad to be here. I suspect that what you are working on is a story that at some point the whole nation needs to hear and to understand.

The re-opening of the Roebling Aqueduct Bridge, in 1986, began the rehabilitation of the National Park Service image along the Upper Delaware. Just as the area was blessed with so many people who put in the difficult, long hours that went into developing the Management Plan, so also the area has been blessed with Park Service superintendents and their staffs who appreciated the uniqueness of the management plan.

The plan has worked now for almost twenty years. Today a booming real estate market and the feasibility of building in areas once considered unbuildable have made intense development attractive in some parts of the Corridor. But Townships and Towns are moving to strengthen zoning to further protect the land along the river. And new individual landowner preservationists have appeared. Conservancies are purchasing development rights – a process which, if adequately funded, will be extremely important to the future of the river.

What is special about this place? We need only look at the logo of the Upper Delaware Council which bears the words, Partnership - Land, Water, People.

The Roebling Bridge, built in 1848 as a compromise between rafters and canalers, and rebuilt by the Park Service in 1986, stands as a symbol of the compromises between the people of the Valley and their Government to preserve the land, the water and a people’s way of life.

In so many ways, the Upper Delaware continues to be a very special place.

October 29, 2009
WES GILLINGHAM: The Catskills' future is up to us
September 3, 2009
JEFFREY MOORE: Destroying it won't 'save'it
August 6, 2009
BARBARA LEWIS: Trees: a legacy and a future
July 9, 2009
SARAH CUTLER: Share the road
June 11, 2009
SUSAN SCOTT: The democratization of information
May 14, 2009
MICHAEL CHOJNICKI: A turning point
April 16, 2009
JOHN CONWAY: Dual-mode transportation
March 19,2009
February 19, 2009
JEFFREY SEEDS: One-sidedness
January 17, 2009
TOM HOLMES: Taking back the power
December 25, 2008
TINA PALACEK: When a community is really a family

November 27, 2008
STEPHANIE TURNER: Gas drilling from a realtor's perspective
October 30, 2008
SUSAN SULLIVAN: From visiong to reality: the role of local government
October 2, 2008
MARY BETH WOOD: Investing in career and technical education
September 4, 2008
JOE LEVINE: When compromise is a recipe for disaster
August 7, 2008
VIDAL MARTINEZ: The Upper Delaware experience
July 10, 2008
WES GILLINGHAM: Sticking together
June 12, 2008
LINDA COBB: The Harmony Project
May 15, 2008
Barbara Arrindell: Looking back
April 17, 2008
JO CLEARWATER: Welcome to the new world
March 20, 2008
JONATHAN F. ROUIS: Out of many, one
February 21, 2008
MIKE URETSKY: Mired in gas
January 24, 2008
Some visionaries look at 2008
October 4, 2007
Greg Swarz: Coming Home
September 6, 2007
Jim Serio: Educating the Delaware River Basin
August 9, 2007
Stephanie Streeter: Still endangered?
July 26, 2007
Molly Rodgers: Be informed, be connected
July 12, 2007
Brad Krumholz: The landscape mind
June 28, 2007
John Bunting: Milk price and power
June 14, 2007
Brian Smith: It's time to work and worry
May 31, 2007
Carol Roig: Celebrating history close to home
May 17, 2007
Debbie Smorto: Be a part of the solution
April 19, 2007
Robert Dadras: Creating a new direction for Sullivan County
April 5, 2007
Dave Williams: Save your local dairy farm
March 22, 2007
R.A. Dubensky: Losing our future
March 8, 2007
Dave Williams: Save your local dairy farm
February 22, 2007
Troy Bystrom: Conserve to preserve
February 8, 2007
Alegra Jennings: Do you see what I see?
January 18, 2007
Amy Gruzesk: A new alliance for business in Pike
January 11, 2007
Grace Wildermuth: Our rural environment must be preserved

December 28, 2006
John Jose: Meeting the challenges of stormwater management
December 14, 2006
Daniel Kennedy: Making memories in Pike County
November 30, 2006
Stephen Stuart: Sustainable Solutions
November 16, 2006
Linda Cobb: The Harmony Project
November 2, 2006
Judy Harlan: What municipalities can do about flooding
October 19, 2006
Samuel Jackson: Walking the talk
October 5, 2006
Jay Epstein: The foundations of a viable plan
September 14, 2006
Tom Kane: The clean water act
September 7, 2006
Skip Mendler: A community of communities
August 24, 2006
FREDERICA LEIGHTON: Flood reality: vision or the lack of it
August 10, 2006
DICK RISELING: A vision of actions
July 27, 2006
PAT CARULLO AND MARCIA NEHEMIAH: Red plus blue equals green
July 13, 2006
Neal Halloran: Greenway: a program whose time has come
June 29, 2006
Steven Sharoff: Strong visions can change the world
June 15, 2006
Heinrich Strauch: Cooking up a vision
June 1, 2006
Jennifer C.S. Brylinski: The IDA keeps to its vision
May 18, 2006
Norma and Bob Santee: Maintaining our environment
May 4, 2006
Don Parry: The “vision thing”
April 20, 2006
Joe Walsh: Keeping farms a mainstay of Sullivan County
April 6, 2006
Heather Brown: Why I came here, and what keeps me here
March 23, 2006
Pat Carullo: We are with the program
March 09, 2006
Helen Budrock: The power of proactive thinking
February 23, 2006
Carol Collier: A basin-wide collaboration
February 9, 2006
Barbara Leo: A birding trail for the Upper Delaware
January 26, 2006
Virginia Kennedy: Our vision—economic and environmental sustainability
January 12, 2006
Tom Zeterburg: At the crossroads of two rivers
December 29, 2005
Sally Corrigan: Hallmarks of a successful community
December 15, 2005
“Better Models for Development” scores a hit - a compilation by Tom Kane and the Visioning Committee
December 1, 2005
Brian Stuart: Protecting an amazing backyard resource
November 17, 2005
John LiGreci: The need for a master plan
November 3, 2005
Tom Kane: The need for intelligent land use practices
October 20, 2005
Michael Chojnicki: The need for intelligent land use practices
October 6, 2005
Alan Schadt: The Town of Highland through a crystal ball
September 22, 2005
Ernie Mattern: Comprehensive Planning in Damascus
September 8, 2005
Jerry DaBrescia: Visioning in Hancock
August 25, 2005
Neal Halloran: Ways to secure open space
August 11, 2005
Clem Fullerton: Flow woes
August 11, 2005
Tom Kane: Options for preserving open space
July 28, 2005
Charlie Buterbaugh: Fishing Days Gone
July 28, 2005
George Fluhr: What's special about this place
June 30, 2005
Tom Kane: There are many visions in the river valley
June 30, 2005
Mary Curtis: My vision for the Upper Delaware River
June 16, 2005
Sarah Sutto-Plunz: It depends on us
June 16, 2005
Green buildings: a healthy revolution in the construction industry
June 2, 2005
Pat Carullo: If horses can fly, rivers can speak!
May 19, 2005
Laurie Stuart: A view from the ridge
April 21, 2005
Rosie Starr: Preserving the Beauty of the Delaware River Valley
April 7, 2005
Robert Burrow: Developing a plan takes study
March 24, 2005
Tom Kane: Comprehensive Plan: The Key to the Future
March 10, 2005
Katharine Dodge: We have a choice: aggressiveness or fairness
February 24, 2005
Editorial: A tide in the affairs of men
February 24, 2005
Jim Greier: Let’s not put our eggs in one basket
February 10, 2005
Elliot Zucker: A voice for private property rights
January 27, 2005
Steve Daley : Visions of business growth and home ownership
January 13, 2005
Laura Quigley : Living and working in the land of plenty
December 30, 2004
Dr. Martin Handler : My list of visions
December 16, 2004
Dr. Bruce Getzan : Bringing harmony to contrasting visions
December 2, 2004
Sally Talaga : Visioning’s first step
November 18, 2004
Michele Ulmer : Be involved before it’s too late
November 4, 2004
Marcia Nehemiah: It's all about the river
October 21, 2004
John Drobysh: Balancing preservation with property rights
October 7, 2004
Jeffrey Moore: Raising the standards in the river valley
September 23, 2004
Dimitri Zaimes: The right and wrong of the Upper Delaware September 9, 2004
Frederica Leighton: Combining hindsight, foresight, present awareness and action
August 26, 2004
Krista Gromalski: Turning the Conversation Up
August 12, 2004
Jo Clearwater: Visioning
July 29, 2004
Noel Van Swol: What about Property Rights?
July 15, 2004
Cindy Wildermuth: A call for stewardship
July 1, 2004
Tom Kane: Taking stock of the visioning process
June 17, 2004
Dick Riseling: Sustainability and justice is at the heart of vision
June 3, 2004
Peter Pinchot: Exurban sprawl or livable communities?