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Historical society given presentation on Leaser Lake

Gloria Zimmerman, president of the Weisenberg Lowhill Township Historical Society, introduced Carl Zvanut as the speaker for the quarterly historical society meeting.

Zvanut recently spoke at a Rotary Club of Allentown West meeting, which Zimmerman attended.

She asked him to a historical society picnic and Zvanut was scheduled twice to talk at the lake but both times the event was rained out.

Zvanut brought a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his talk at this meeting.

A retired chemical engineer, he worked for DuPont and Air Products.

Zvanut said he is a member of Engineers Without Borders, and jokingly explained he goes anywhere, Debi, his wife, tells him to go.

As he was talking to historical society members, Zvanut thought the program should begin with some area history.

He noted there is a memorial to Frederick Leaser at Leaser Lake.

Leaser is credited with bringing the Liberty Bell and other bells from Philadelphia to prevent the British from melting them down to make ammunition during the Revolutionary War.

In September 1777, a few Pennsylvania Dutch farmers brought applejack to Philadelphia to sell.

As their horses and wagons were being readied for the return trip. there was talk of moving the bells.

The story is the bells were covered with hay to hide them. Zvanut said it was more likely manure which had to be taken out of the city whereas hay was brought in.

They stopped overnight on Bethlehem Pike when a wagon broke an axle. It is not sure if Leaser was hauling the bells at that point but it is certain he brought them to what is now Zion’s Reformed United Church of Christ, Allentown.

That was when the inscription was first seen - “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land.”

Zvanut showed pictures of the farm buildings at the home of Frederick and Catherine Leaser.

Leaser Lake is in the northwest corner of Lehigh County. The county owns the land around the lake and the state Fish and Boat Commission owns land around that. There are 116 acres with plenty of shoreline.

The lake was created in 1970 by the state Fish and Boat Commission for purposes of recreation.

The dam did not hold and the lake drew down. The dam was considered a hazard, if it should fail completely.

In 2000, Schnable Engineering was asked to study the dam. The company discovered it was built with the wrong kind of dirt.

In 2007, the Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation was formed. Marc Grammes, a Lehigh County commissioner, is given credit for getting the group going.

Also helping were the Windward Sailing Club, fishing clubs and Lynn supervisors.

“The goal was to get the politicians to realize people wanted the lake,” Zvanut said.

The county donated $100,000 and the state kicked in $4.5 million.

The Northwestern Lehigh High School band was on hand when the major check was presented.

Willard Snyder said the Lynn Heidelberg Historical Society still has the large cardboard check that was used.

He said there was an eight-gun salute which scared a pony so badly it tried to jump the traffic guide rails and needed help to get free.

George White became chairman and made many trips to Harrisburg. Randy Metzger would bring his kids and welcomed others when he worked on building fish habitats. White mapped their location.

The lake was filled in 2015 but it was not long before seepage was seen. Rather than the dam weakening, the pressure opened a spring. French drains were placed to get the pressure away from the earthen dam.

Grants were received for concrete restrooms hauled in on trucks and set in place with a crane. They are solid concrete and Zvanut said it is a good place to be in a hurricane or tornado.

Trees have been planted and there is a four-mile loop trail. An Eagle Scout built a bridge along the trail.

At one lake entrance, there is an accessible kayak dock and a fishing dock.

Other small boats can use the kayak dock and get boats in the water easily but Zvanut said there is also a nearby beach for putting in boats.

The Kempton Lions, and Tom Kerr, retired from Wildlands Conservancy, helped with the work.

There is a master plan showing the cost of $190,000 which came from the Lions, Cabelas, Lehigh County, Deka and New Tripoli National Bank. Both docks are open for use.

The county provides a portable toilet but it will be replaced with another concrete model as soon as the money is raised.

Zvanut said ice fishing had been good during January’s cold spell. Kids were clearing the ice for ice hockey but gave up when it was half finished.

Water rarely flows over the dam but through pipes underneath.

The Audubon Society does bird counts and says there is more variety than at Hawk Mountain because of the presence of water and song birds.

Snyder said Lynn Heidelberg keeps a clear path to the Leaser cemetery. A problem with groundhogs was solved by digging a 4-foot deep trench and putting wire in.

The heritage foundation is in the process of redefining itself. At a fall meeting the chairman said the big work was done but there were lots of little things to improve the park. A pavilion is under consideration at the assessable site.

Officers were elected for 2018. Zimmerman is now the sole president as co-president Deb Zettlemoyer did not want to maintain her position.

Nancy Handwerk is secretary and Althea Hahn is treasurer. Sterling Reinert and Katharine Hoch are co-vice presidents.

Debi Zvanut said baskets are being prepared for the basket social at Zettlemoyer’s Auction House on April 23. Doors open at 3 p.m. with the drawing at 7 p.m.

Willard Snyder of Lynn Heidelberg Historical Society told of Lester F. Wertman who was killed on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge and buried in Belgium.

The historical society has received his collection including a Purple Heart.

Press photo by Elsa KerschnerCarl Zvanut speaks with Sandy Cappuccino and Glenn Eckhart as they look at a map of Leaser Lake. The map is available for purchase at Wanamakers Store in Lynn Township.