Murals will be added to some Wyoming Valley Levee system properties in Forty Fort, Kingston and Edwardsville in a project funded and completed through the Street Art Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority board, which oversees the levee system along the Susquehanna River, unanimously voted Tuesday to advance the proposal and work out details.
Amy Bezek, a photographer and vice president of the Street Art Society, told the board her group has grant funding to cover several murals that will depict animals and other natural features.
The project is intended to help build tourism and make people happy, she said.
Painted murals will be finished with a sealant to last and must be maintained by the society for at least eight years under the proposed agreement, although Bezek said she is hopeful the artwork will remain at chosen sites for decades to come through future agreement renewals.
The agreement will require the society to return authority property to its original appearance if the mural project ends, said authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman.
Belleman said he supports the project because it will conform with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements and cost nothing for the authority and levee fee payers.
He believes murals added to buildings along Wyoming Avenue and improved the appearance of the West Side.
“It makes our community a little bit more attractive,” Belleman said.
Several citizens spoke during public comment Tuesday in opposition to a potential policy that could ban electric bikes, scooters and skateboards from popular recreational paths atop the levee.
The citizens said electric bikes have opened up recreational options for older adults and those with disabilities, and they don’t believe their appreciated access to the levee should be taken away. One woman said her disabled child is able to enjoy the levee on an electric scooter.
Authority Board Chairman Dominic Yannuzzi said a forum will be held next month to accept public comment on the matter before the board proceeds.
Yannuzzi also asked one of Tuesday’s speakers — Around Town Bicycles owner Richard Adams — to review and provide input on any proposed policy that may be drafted by the board.
Agreeing to help, Adams said e-bikes are very popular and here to stay.
Belleman had first suggested the drafting of a policy for e-bikes a year ago after someone on one whizzed past him while he was working on the levee path. This person was “flying,” and the e-bike “was like a small motorcycle,” he said at the time.
The rough policy draft he presented to the board last month proposed an option to only allow e-bikes weighing up to 100 pounds that can still be fully operated by the user without activating the motor. The motor itself should be no more than 750 watts and not have the capacity to exceed 20 miles per hour, it said.
His proposal would have prohibited e-bicyclists from exclusively using motors to move atop the levee. Instead, they would have to “use human power or pedal-assist power (electric assistance while pedaling) to operate e-bikes,” it said.
No action was taken, and several board members expressed support for an outright ban. Questions were raised about how any policy would be enforced.
Board member Jay Delaney told the citizens Tuesday he is still convinced a policy is needed to protect the safety of trail users on foot, but he promised to keep an open mind and hold out hope for a “happy medium.”
As part of an ongoing effort to put all levee-related property under authority ownership, the board voted Tuesday to accept the conveyance of parcels from Plymouth and the nonprofit Earth Conservancy based in Ashley.
Belleman said both entities agreed to transfer ownership of the parcels to the authority at no cost.
Earth Conservancy agreed to give up four parcels. Two in Plymouth already house levee facilities and measure 11,184 square feet and 574 square feet. The remaining two parcels in Plymouth Township total 12 acres along the Susquehanna and are surrounded by authority-owned land on the remaining three sides.
Plymouth is turning over three parcels containing levee facilities. These parcels are 2.5 acres, 0.58 acre and 5,051 square feet.
The authority board also voted Tuesday to settle a legal dispute over property near the Market Street Bridge in Kingston that had been filed against the authority by Charles M. Reilly Jr. and Joseph J. Reilly in the county Court of Common Pleas in 2020, officials said. Authority legal counsel said details won’t be publicly released until all parties sign off on the settlement.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.