When the Levee Breaks

Maple Beach Road, looking southwesterly.

Maple Beach Road, looking southwesterly.


Maple Beach Road, as seen on the left, was once a well-traveled thoroughfare that joined the thriving community of the roadway’s namesake to Bristol Borough, by means of the now barricaded, dilapidated Maple Beach Road Bridge, crossing over Otter Creek.
Maple Beach Road Bridge and Otter Creek

Maple Beach Road Bridge and Otter Creek

Barricaded Maple Beach Bridge; Bristol Borough, PA, in Background.

Barricaded Maple Beach Bridge; Bristol Borough, PA, in Background.

Constructed in 1915

Constructed in 1915


The neighborhood is virtually an eerie ghost town, as if an apocalyptic event wiped out most of the thirty original homesteads built there as part of a housing development, established prior to World War I.
Maple Beach 1930 (on right); Photo Courtesy of Independence Seaport Museum

Maple Beach 1930 (on right); Photo Courtesy of Independence Seaport Museum

The above photo shows Maple Beach during the construction of the Burlington-Bristol Bridge, as seen in the center of the photograph.

In comparison, the images below are interesting, present-day screenshots of what’s left of the former, American dream-like settings from yesteryear.

Satellite Photo Courtesy of Google Earth

Satellite Photo Courtesy of Google Earth

Satellite image courtesy of Mapquest and TomTom

Satellite image courtesy of Mapquest and TomTom


The vestiges of streets throughout the remnant community are graphically identified in the satellite photos. Sadly for this writer and photographer, no houses exist anymore except for those noted on the above screenshots.

Not much is found on the Internet about Maple Beach. I suppose a trip to the Bristol Historical Society would yield plenty of information and photos about the area.

The available scoop states that in 1917, the nearby chemical company, Rohm and Haas, began to purchase the residential properties as part of their expansion for industrial activities on the greater portion of the land, which never materialized to much extent.

Eventually, all but four lots were obtained with the housing and structures having been demolished henceforth. The holdouts remain clustered presently still in a small group at the community’s southeastern end on the Delaware River.

According to a local historian, Cate Murway, from her musings entitled “Memories…pressed between the pages…”:

    In the 1920s, sand was trucked in to the Bristol Rohm and Haas plant to create ‘Maple Beach’ along the Delaware River for employee social activities. A small golf course even existed at the site. The riverfront properties in a 300-acre residential area is known as Maple Beach, protected by a decades-old earthen levee which was constructed to protect against the 100-year storm.

Levee as seen from Burlington, NJ. One of the remaining houses is in view.

Levee as seen from Burlington, NJ. One of the remaining houses is in view.

Levee and Observation as seen from Maple Beach.

Levee and Observation as seen from Maple Beach.

Dow Chemical Company, who bought Rohm and Hass in 2008, is now the main proprietor of Maple Beach. In 2014 the conglomerate dropped adhering to federal standards for maintaining the levee that has been protecting Maple Beach for over eighty years.

Without the levee’s federal accreditation, the area will become considered a flood plain. As a result, the remaining property owners, as well as Bristol Township, are deeply concerned the property values and incentives for future developers to purchase available land will become at the very least, decimated, not to mention the residents’ having to buy expensive flood insurance, and the potential loss of tax revenue for the local government.

Rohm and Haas built the protective berm in 1931 and had maintained it to federal standards until selling the property. Dow claims the levee is safe and stopped its maintenance thereof.

Governmental regulations mandated the chemical giant to adhere to federal guidelines due to hazardous materials stored in tanks on the premises, those of which were removed in 2004, thus eliminating the future need for the levee certification, according to Dow officials.

IMHO, this is just another fine example of greedy, corporate undertakings, looking out for only themselves and their own bottom line, not the welfare of their neighbors. The chemical company stands to pay less in property taxes and cease expensive levee repairs due to dropping the certification and having the area declared a flood zone.

The township is concerned about its tax coffers for much needed revenue, while the homeowners are concerned about high-priced flood insurance. My sentiments rest with the residents; to me it’s them who will feel the first and final splash from a compromised levee.

Then and now:

The last row of houses pre-Kodachrome

The last row of houses pre-Kodachrome

Last Remaining Houses - 6th October 2015

Last Remaining Houses – 6th October 2015

Lake Adaline in the early half of the 20th century

Lake Adaline in the early half of the 20th century

Lake Adaline, Self-proclaimed Parker Pond - 26th September 2015

Lake Adaline, Self-proclaimed Parker Pond – 26th September 2015


All in all, the 100-year storm has 16 more years left yet to materialize. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the safety of Maple Beach’s citizens.

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About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at Lulu.com.
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