Cherishing the past, celebrating the present and welcoming the future.
For all of 2022, this has been the motto of Northampton Township as it commemorated a major historic milestone — its 300th anniversary.
On Dec. 14, 1722, a petition was granted by the Quarter Sessions Court at Bristol to establish a new township on the lands lying “between Southampton Township and other lands and the Neshaminy Creek.” Thus, Northampton Township was born.
Over the past 12 months, the 300th Committee, helmed by former supervisor Eileen Silver, has hosted a slew of celebratory happenings. These included a summer reading program at the Free Library of Northampton Township, colonial weaving and wool spinning presentations at the James E. Kinney Senior Center and a history walk at the Northampton Municipal Park.
The jam-packed year of festivities wrapped up during the Northampton Township board of supervisors’ Dec. 14 meeting, which saw the local leaders dressed in powdered wigs and other garb of the 18th century.
Chairman Adam Selisker and his fellow board members recreated the signing of the petition that established a brand new township so many years ago. At that time, 21 petitioners put ink to paper and made it a reality. A birthday cake, complete with sparkler candles, was brought out.
“This has been quite a long year of celebration. Three-hundred years is just remarkable,” said Selisker. “I think you will all agree that Northampton is a great place to live, and it has been for 300 years.”
Citations and other honors were presented on behalf of U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, outgoing state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson and Sen.-elect Frank Farry.
On hand at the meeting was outgoing state Rep. Wendi Thomas and newly-elected state Rep. Joe Hogan.
“A valuable presence in this commonwealth, Northampton Township is a community which has always been blessed with steadfast citizens, concerned community and civic-minded leaders, lasting traditions and a resilient spirit that have helped it thrive for 300 years and prepared it to meet the challenges of the future,” said Thomas. “The state of Pennsylvania is very, very proud of our township and I must say, so am I.”
Though Hogan grew up in Levittown and Langhorne, he praised the township: “Working in Bucks County my whole life, we always knew how great of a place this is. Here’s to another 300 years of a successful, great Northampton.”
In 1722, there were 40 existing settlements on the land. Now, the township boasts 40,000 residents, a major uptick from its humble beginnings. According to official records, Northampton used to be a strong farming community, with local workers never failing to keep busy. Whether they were hosting Memorial Day parades, attending carnivals, enjoying plays or competing in county fairs, their schedules were usually filled, not unlike that of residents this anniversary year.
Nancy Opalka, director of parks and recreation, had a big hand in the planning process as a member of the 300th Committee. She said, “The 300th Committee is thrilled to see the many activities, programs and events come together.”
The supervisors’ meeting on Dec. 14 was the opportune time to also celebrate Opalka, who announced her retirement from parks and recreation.
Supervisor Kim Rose listed the many accomplishments of Opalka, who came to Northampton Township in 1988, when she managed a full-time staff of two employees. The township had a population of 31,000, with the department offering a handful of programs, including three exercise classes, three summer camps and limited sports. Since then, the department has grown to 10 full-time employees, several part-time workers and over 100 seasonal summer staffers.
Opalka oversaw the 2001 revamp of the Northampton Recreation Center, a space that was formerly part of the library. It now has two offices, kitchen facilities, preschool classrooms, a dance room, gym and more, with programs offered for all ages totaling over 100.
She also spearheaded the development of the Northampton Township Municipal Park, which now houses picnic pavilions, athletic courts and, most recently, the Miracle League Playground. The latter includes equipment designed to give individuals of all abilities the opportunity to play.
Rose told Opalka, “Your love and dedication to our community has been endless. You are leaving a legacy, a township that values physical activity, team sports, inclusive play and programs for every age, ability and lifestyle. We all wish you the best in your next chapter.”
For Opalka, this next chapter is an exciting one — she’s about to become a grandmother. Rose said to her, “I can tell you from experience, that’s gonna be your best job ever.”
“I appreciate all the support over the years,” Opalka said tearfully. “But I leave the department in great hands, a great staff. I’m gonna miss them all.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org