ClearWater Conservancy staff and volunteers joined Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Bureau of Forestry officials September 9 in applauding acquisition of a 570-acre tract that expands Bald Eagle State Forest to more than 197,000 acres.
“This invaluable addition to the state forest system comes at a time when more and more people are being drawn to these woodlands by a variety of interests and activities,” Dunn said, speaking on the Centre County site popularly known as the Decker Tract.
DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry worked with ClearWater Conservancy to place a sales option on the property and then transfer the option to DCNR when acquisition funding was available. Finalized May 14, the $1.71 million sale, including a variety of buildings, was financed through the bureau’s Oil and Gas Fund.
Located just outside the borough of Centre Hall at 2823 Lower Brush Valley Road (Route 192), the new state forestland is key to watershed protection and increased recreational access, the secretary said.
“ClearWater is excited to be actively involved in the conservation of the Decker property because it provides public access to the Bald Eagle State Forest directly from State Route 192 for the first time. The Decker family can turn over ownership and management of the land to the state forest team with confidence and trust, knowing they can still come back to enjoy the land, and that the family tradition of open hunting access will continue,” said Land Conservation Manager Kevin Abbey, ClearWater’s lead staff member on the project.
Future plans for this tract call for a trailhead parking lot, and an extension of the Ray Decker Trail with the state forest’s Greens Valley Tract and the James Cleveland Memorial Trail. DCNR officials said plans for the property also include a native plant nursery operation in the fertile farmland portion of the acreage along Route 45. Trees and shrubs from the nursery will benefit habitat and forest restoration efforts across the Commonwealth, furthering the Decker family legacy in the process.