Allentown, Pennsylvania

Site PhotoIn 1982, Billy Joel sang about a restless place, where all the factories are closing down, where folks were "killing time, filling out forms, standing in line." Although his social commentary on the de-industrialization of Allentown resonated sharply with many in northeastern United States cities, the Lehigh Valley city has recovered to embrace a diversifying economy, growing population, and rekindled passion for its strong historical foundation of parks and recreation.

Allentown and its park system were the products of grand visionaries who held great aspirations for their "Park Place" of Pennsylvania. "Allen's town" was originally founded by former Philadelphia Mayor and Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, William Allen, in the 1760s. In 1900 General Harry Trexler established West Park as the start of an extensive natural recreational infrastructure that would serve Allentonians throughout the 20th century and beyond. The Trexler Trust continues to fund park restoration, maintenance, and expansion of the city's park system.

Site PlanGeorge "Bucky" Boyle Park is a crown jewel in Trexler's vision because it has been faithfully restored to serve former baseball legend Boyle's intended purpose: to reach underprivileged Allentown children through sports and make them good citizens. He intervened when the park first began to deteriorate in the 1950s as rough youth disturbed festivals and families. His efforts were recognized when then–Riverfront Park was renamed Buck Boyle Park in 1972, but Boyle could not halt the deterioration of both park and surrounding neighborhood when the economy soured.

A collaborative planning process began in 2000 with a Catalyst Grant from the City Parks Forum. This initiative was made possible by Mayor William Heydt's eager participation and the involvement of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action and Leadership Lehigh Valley. Financial support from the National Park Service's Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program, Pennsylvania's State Community Revitalization Grant, The Harry Trexler Trust, the City of Allentown, and the City Parks Forum realized a public stakeholder-driven process to bring recreation back to the park and surrounding low-income neighborhoods. New amenities include football fields, baseball fields, basketball courts, spray pool for younger children, and a new pavilion.

America on Wheels MuseumMayor Heydt's participation in the City Parks Forum has placed Boyle Park at the forefront of a larger downtown revitalization project, Lehigh Landing. Adjacent to Boyle Park, Lehigh Landing is a mixed-use post-industrial development along the Lehigh River. Several turn-of-the-century industrial facilities will be renovated for the project, anchored by the new America on Wheels Museum. Over-the-road transportation exhibits have already been promised by the Smithsonian Institution, as well as Mack Trucks, headquartered in Allentown. The Lehigh Landing project will also include a river walk, a tie-in to the Delaware and Lehigh Canal and boating activities along the river.


John Fasolka
Superintendent of Parks
2700 Parkway Boulevard
Allentown, PA 18104
(P) 610-437-7628

Images: Top — Site Photo. American Planning Association. Middle — Site plan. City of Allentown. Bottom — America on Wheels Museum. City of Allentown.