December 20, 2021

As is appeared in the Times Leader

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Luzerne County’s Flood Protection Authority is seeking donations to update benches, kiosks and planting stations atop the Wyoming Valley Levee because the recreational enhancements can’t be funded by the levee fee.

“Help us beautify the levee by adding new landscaping, a fresh coat of paint on the garbage receptacles and upgrading the educational wayside kiosks with new information to be enjoyed by trail users,” says a new message on the authority’s website at

The path was added more than two decades ago as part of the levee-raising project.

It was designed primarily for vehicles to access the levee for maintenance and Susquehanna River flood monitoring without causing ruts and other damage. Bikers, joggers and walkers instantly gravitated to the path for recreation.

“It’s become a huge recreational component for the Wyoming Valley. That’s undeniable, and we want to do periodic maintenance and improvements,” Authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman said Monday.

However, the fee paid by levee-protected property owners must be used solely for flood-control expenses maintaining, repairing and operating the 16-mile system, which includes 13 pump stations, more than 120 underground wells and other components, he said.

Aware that the benches, landscaping, trash receptacles and kiosks need attention, the authority came up with the idea to seek both grants and public donations, he said.

“Some of the kiosks you can’t even read anymore. Everything is starting to show wear and tear,” Belleman said.

Donations will be kept in a segregated account, with receipts and expenditures tracked through bank statements and a part-time authority accountant, he said.

The authority website will accept donations in any amount but highlights a supporting level of $2, a bronze level of $10, a silver level of $100, a gold level of $1,000 and a platinum level of $10,000.

Donors who contribute less than $2,500 will receive recognition on the authority website and in its bi-annual newsletter, it said. Those donating $2,500 or more will receive advertising rights for a year at one planting station, it said.

An accompanying pitch says the levee trail is among the favorite places in the county to “spend warm summer days.”

“But in recent years, it seems to have lost its magic. Help it flourish again by donating to the Wyoming Valley Levee Trail Recreation Beautification Project.”

New building

In another update, the flood authority closed last week on its purchase of the former state police training facility on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort for $565,000 to house its offices, Belleman said.

Mortgage payments for the Forty Fort building will be lower than the authority’s current $44,690 annual expense to rent 3,032 square feet of office space on Laird Street in Plains Township from Ja-Va Inc, he said.

Located by the Wyoming Valley Airport, the 7,100-square-foot Forty Fort building also is adjacent to the authority’s levee maintenance shed, Belleman said.

Approximately 2,000 square feet in the Forty Fort property would not be needed by the authority and could be rented out to increase savings, he said.

The $565,000 purchase price was based on the authority’s appraisal and accepted by property owner Cecily P. Sesler, of Erie, the authority has said.

Belleman said he is optimistic the authority will occupy the new space by mid-2022 after painting, new carpeting and other minor modifications are completed.