In the late 1800s, the steep hillside of Kohler Ridge was an active brick manufacturing plant with a slate quarry and brick kilns. Since the closure of the brick-making operations, the future 25.8-acre park is now covered by forest and open meadow, and bordered with an active Norfolk-Southern rail, reservoir, and Sunoco gas line. Despite its post-industrial condition, the setting offers a unique place for a nature-based park that is community centered.
The design of Kohler Ridge is an opportunity to engage with what is elemental in landscape, revealing a cycle of disturbance and regeneration in plot of land. Omnes is playing with light, canopy, wind, and views that sprawl out toward the focal point of Kittatinny Ridge beyond, while also introducing moments of programming within the forest. As you traverse the site, sit, and climb, you become oriented within not just this park, but the greater landscape of the Lehigh Valley and Blue Mountains, a seemingly endless range of azure. Old farmhouses with tree breaks to the south are surrounded by new homes, where a new neighborhood identity is forming.
The plan is in the early planning stage, and now has an open community survey. This plan is formed with innovative community engagement, as well as sound ecological analysis. As part of the final plan, Omnes will develop an ecological management plan for the forest, oldfield, and meadow while also introducing new uses for the park that invite a broad range of visitors. The team includes ETM Associates, a public space management firm that has planned renowned landscapes such as New York City’s High Line, and Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, Discovery Green, and the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. Dharam Consulting also joins the team for cost estimating services, bringing international experience in landscapes and cultural development. The plan will be complete in late 2021, and will recommend phased development of the park.