What is happening to God’s creations in Penn’s Woods?
Berry and Mahantango mountains in upper Dauphin County and Cove Mountain in Perry County have come under attack by developers. Once developments or projects take up residence in those areas, woodlands with their flora and fauna will be lost forever.
As the woodlands are gobbled up, maybe Pennsylvania should change its name, since the “sylvania” is Latin for woods. Why is it that out-of-the area developers/entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change the local landscapes?
One of the most breathtaking views on a clear day can be seen from the top of Peter’s Mountain on Route 225 in Dauphin County, looking out over the patchwork of farmlands as far as the eye can see. Another thrill is driving through Powells Valley on Route 225 from Halifax to Elizabethville, or from Millersburg through the Lykens Valley on Routes 209 or 25 on a crisp fall day when the mountains are in full color.
The serenity of a Perry County woodland was threatened in the fall when a New Jersey developer presented a proposal to build three high-rise complexes along Cove Mountain and above the Susquehanna River.
Now Glenn R. Noblit wants to built a private road through the property of Janet Greene and Randy Wolfe on Berry Mountain in Halifax Twp. so he can harvest oak trees on 17 acres. Another developer acquired 23 acres nearby from Dauphin County for $800.
Mahantango Mountain is in peril because Gamesa Energy, a Spanish wind energy company, is testing the winds in Upper Paxton Twp. with the idea of placing 30 turbines on more than six miles of the mountaintop by 2009.
During a trip through Germany in September, I saw many wind farms dotting the countryside in the northern federal states, but all were functioning on meadows and fields, not ruining mountains. Some wind farms in western Pennsylvania also are on meadows.
Already, a housing development is under way in Halifax Twp., on former farmland near the confluence of Routes 225 and 147. And who can forget the landfill outside of Millersburg?
When developers move in, infrastructure can be threatened, too. Routes 225 and 147, both of which are two-lane, are the only roads leading to the primarily rural hamlets and townships of upper Dauphin County.
Woodland creatures chased out of their natural habitat become frequent foragers in suburban areas, sending some residents into a panic. Who can forget the plight of that poor brown bear that was the victim of a gun-happy Game Commission officer in Camp Hill?
Maybe local folks could follow the example of the Brandywine Conservancy and the Lancaster Farmland Trust and take action to preserve nature’s resources.
The Brandywine Conservancy was developed by residents in the mid-1960s when massive industrial development was targeted for the Brandywine Valley. Since then, the conservancy has protected natural and cultural resources of more than 38,000 acres of land.
Residents of Lancaster County did not stand by and watch developers devour valuable farmland. They organized Lancaster Farmland Trust in 1988 to protect agricultural property. By the end of 2006, the organization had preserved 252 farms involving 15,751 acres.
Dauphin County is fortunate to have three organizations that could take the lead in developing a countywide endeavor to save its mountains for future generations.
The Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art already has preserved 500 acres on Berry Mountain outside of Millersburg. The Benjamin Olewine III Center at Wildwood Park in Harrisburg sits in the middle of a 157-acre premier site for environmental and ecological studies.
Covering a wider area, the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy is focused on protecting the Kittatinny Ridge, also known as Blue Mountain, in Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry and Snyder counties. Presently it has protected more than 2,957 acres.
Led by these organizations, county and township officials, community leaders and state organizations could undertake a joint effort to preserve the local forests.
Maybe township supervisors will study zoning regulations in their jurisdiction and begin to develop new ones where needed to protect these woodland gems just a few miles away from the state capital.
Otherwise, who knows what will be the next proposal to be considered for these mountains.
By Judith Patton