A College Student’s View on Sprawl in the Lehigh Valley
My name is Michael Sutherland, and currently I am a junior at Penn State University studying Geography. I have grown up in the Lehigh Valley my entire life in the city of Allentown and borough of Hellertown. I deeply treasure this area and have seen it change in both good and bad ways over my lifetime.
The Lehigh Valley, like the rest of America, has sprawled out in its development enormously over the last few decades. I have seen it first hand in the endless sprawl of places such as Lower Saucon Township with the mega-homes of the Saddle Ridge development that eat up farmland with no apparent stopping in sight.
I have grown up in a society where I have almost always had to drive to get anywhere. For a long time when I was a child I had dreamed about driving. I had all of the toy cars and on the maps of imaginary places that I drew, I created crazy highway interchanges. The interesting thing, though, is that after driving for a little while, it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Traffic congestion made driving awful, and even more so, gas was and still is an expense.
These are all consequences of the urban sprawl that we have built. Because of it, I lost the enthusiasm of someday owning a car. It’s not even that I don’t enjoy driving. I find it fun, and for some tasks a car is necessary for getting around. It’s just that it should not have to be the only option. All of this has led me to be a proponent of smart growth in the Lehigh Valley. I believe that building smarter can help create better functioning, more resilient and more interesting places for people to live.
It is for this reason that I encourage citizens to attend the Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities taking place Friday, 12/5 at the Hotel Bethlehem. This all-day conference will be a great place to learn from national, state and regional experts, connect and collaborate. The cost is $65 per person, but two meals at the Hotel Bethlehem are included. Go to renewlv.org to register TODAY, because seats are limited.