Let’s start with this indisputable point: taxpayers collectively own public land because taxpayers fund the purchase and maintenance of public land. Now that we’ve established that point, can we talk a bit about how ridiculous the National Park Service insists that in most cases taxpayers then have to pay more for access to the land they own? We recognize that maintaining a massive natural phenomenon like the Grand Canyon or the Badlands doesn’t come cheap, but neither do taxes. One of the benefits of living in the Lehigh Valley is its proximity to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which does not charge an overhead fee. In 2020, the federal government rightly rejected a plan to establish such a fee, but they are now looking to attract nickel and dime visitors through a separate amenity fee that began this month. Daily charges are $10 per vehicle (up to seven occupants) and $2 for additional passengers, pedestrians and cyclists are in effect for Smithfield Beach, Bushkill Boat Launch, Dingmans Boat Launch, Milford Beach and Turtle Beach . An annual pass costs $45. At this point, the fees aren’t prohibitive for most people, but we’ve seen this movie before. It’s sometimes a long movie, but it almost always ends with fees steadily rising until they become prohibitive, especially for those with limited means in urban areas who should have every chance to get out of the city and discover the beauty of nature.
The drug epidemic in the country has spiraled out of control in recent years and there is no indication that we are close to a plateau. Perhaps the only remotely positive spin that can be put on the epidemic is that we are now a society in which more people than ever understand and sympathize with drug addicts – unfortunately almost everyone now has a friend or a loved one who has gone through or is going through this battle. New institutions like the Change on Hamilton recovery center in Allentown have sprung up and are doing the important work of connecting with addicts. More than 15,000 have participated in programs at the centre, which opened in March 2021. This number will inevitably continue to grow and the center will need support to meet the demand. We believe the Lehigh Valley community is up to the challenge. Addiction will never be eradicated, but there are many people who deserve a chance to get clean. And almost all of us know at least one of these people.
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