Balancing Flood Protection and Fun in Pa.'s River Towns

  • The amphitheater starts to fill up on a recent Sunday night. Photo: Eleanor Klibanoff/WPSU

August 28, 2015
by Eleanor Klibanoff | Keystone Crossroads

It's Sunday night in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, which means it's time for another free outdoor concert in the J. Doyle Corman Amphitheater. This week, it's a country band, and there are close to a hundred people in the audience. But city planner Leonora Hannagan says this is nothing compared to some weekends.

"When we had the Eagles [tribute band], people called me at the beginning of the summer, asking for hotel and restaurant information," she says. "They come and make a whole weekend out of it."

The amphitheater, which has a floating stage, is a big asset for Lock Haven. It gives people a reason to visit, stay and spend.

But the real value of this space has nothing to do with the theater itself. It has to do with what the theater is built into—a levee system that protects the city from flooding.

A small monument outside the amphitheater reads: "Through the years, Lock Haven has suffered from floods, 18 of which were over 25 feet. Those floods have left the people of Lock Haven robbed of their homes, possessions and means of life."

Lock Haven isn't alone—there are many river towns and cities in Pennsylvania. And there are many responses to flooding.

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