Tinicum: Hills and streams in land known for its scenic beauty

CLIFF LEBOWITZ


At the Tinicum Arts Festival in summer, the big barn houses work of local painters and sculptors while vendors and artists tend to booths in the park. The park hosts weekly polo matches, the Riverside Symphonia’s Concert Under the Stars for the Fourth of July, and the Bucks County Kennel Club’s annual show.

Recognized by its stakeholders as “a treasure to be protected, preserved, and conserved,” Tinicum Township, Bucks County, represents a special combination of historic and natural resources.

Tinicum was organized in 1738, with the London Company among the earliest landowners, through a purchase probably made around 1699. The stream of immigration that brought Scotch-Irish settlers into Bedminster, to the southwest, continued into the then-wilderness of Tinicum, and by the mid-1800s the population was 80 percent of German descent.

Tohickon Creek, the second largest stream in Bucks County, noted for many years for its large mill dams and important grist mills, flows along Tinicum’s southwestern boundary into the Delaware River, which forms the southeastern boundary, and separates the township from New Jersey. Tinicum Creek drains the center of the township. The creeks are lined with dramatically beautiful steep cliffs and slopes, which provide habitat for some of Pennsylvania’s threatened, rare, and endangered plants.

Some say the Indian place name of To-hick-han, means “the stream over which we pass by means of a bridge of drift wood,” while more recent students say it means “deer-bone creek.” Tinicum continued to be a home of a remnant of the Delaware tribe for about 25 years after it was surveyed.

The Red Hill Church and School, the Ridge Valley Rural Historic District, and Lewis Summers Farm are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plan notes that no other township in Pennsylvania has as many critical treasures of the National Appalachian Highlands, or as many historic bridges, including three of Bucks County’s 12 covered bridges.

Tinicum’s heritage of artifacts, buildings and landscapes influenced by human settlement covers an estimated 14,000 years, including Lenape culture from about 3000 B.C.E. Many local place names derive from the native Algonquin language.

Early relations with Europeans were peaceful, but were disturbed by the infamous 1737 Walking Purchase that was made possible by Tinicum resident John Marshall. British walkers deceived the Delaware Indians in the walk and claimed land beyond the Lehigh River.

Original settlers’ villages from a 1770 survey are still in existence, with most of them contextually intact, surrounded by farmland, and having had no new building since the early 1900s.

Major trades of early times, besides farming, included brickmaking, basketry, ironworking, charcoal and pottery. Many barns and farmhouses from the period remain, some in original use and others adapted. Historic Districts have been established at Uhlerstown, Ridge Valley, Point Pleasant, Erwinna, and Wormansville.

The 31-square-mile township, part of the Palisades School District, includes 29.9 square miles of land that features 34.1 per cent rural residential; 29.6 per cent agricultural; and 11.5 per cent parks, recreation, and open space. It includes the villages of Erwinna, Ottsville (also in Nockamixon Township), Point Pleasant (also in Plumstead Township), Sundale, Smithtown, Wormansville, Tinicum, Uhlerstown and Upper Black Eddy (also in Bridgeton Township).

Tinicum had a 2010 population of 3,995, with a median age of 48.6. Median income was $76,719, with 91 percent of the residents high school graduates, 34 percent with bachelor’s degrees, and 11.9 percent with graduate or professional degrees. About 97.3 percent of residents were born in the United States, and 97.7 percent speak English only.

The Tinicum Township Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2015, notes that the surface waters of Tinicum provide a resource that is beneficial to the township and region in many ways, including forming an ecology and habitat for a unique set of flora and fauna, and providing a resource for recreation, including fishing, boating, hiking, as well as passive recreation and scenic beauty.

The surface waters are also noted as providing a system of drainage that draws excess stormwater to the Delaware, while providing water to maintain the base flow of the Delaware, and serve as a source downstream for potable water.

The Lower Tohickon, Tinicum Creek, and its tributaries Rapp Creek and Beaver Creek have been added to the National Park Service Partnership Rivers Program, which features goals that include maintaining water quality, and protecting historic structures, districts, and sites.

In addition, Tinicum surface waters are also subject to Pennsylvania Water Quality Standards, as mandated by the federal Cleans Streams Law and Clean Water Act, and the state has designated Tinicum Creek, Rapp Creek, and Beaver Creek as Exceptional Value Waters.

The township is formally committed to the protection and enhancement of its surface waters, as well as riparian buffers, wetlands, soils, and woodlands, and to effective stormwater management. It also notes needs for conservation of hedgerows, ridgelines, steep slopes, and groundwater quality and quantity, and has enlisted the active support of its residents for all natural resource protection needs through publication of a comprehensive guide, and their participation in township committees.

The plan notes that a substantial portion of the township has soils that are important for agriculture by the U.S. Soil Conservation service. They are protected by a township ordinance to minimize disturbance and preserve contiguity.

Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own operations, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements allow farmers to sell directly to consumers. Much of the township land protected by conservation easement is farmed.



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