When you think of Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC), does the word “agile” come to mind? What about “speedy” or “fast?” Any of those words could be used to describe the latest NPC project.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs for 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore using the rail bed that once hauled celery, ginseng, and lumber to market. The Trail is popular with tourists, Boy Scouts earning bicycling badges, and local residents who use it to stay healthy by biking and walking.
There is a need for more access and rest areas at the northern end of the Trail. Users have said that they would like a place to sit and watch wildlife, or to take a simple picnic break. This stretch of trail runs along Marsh Creek and a large wetland complex (known as the Muck). The Trail is maintained by the Bureau of Forestry, and is bordered on both sides by private land.
Back in October, NPC encountered an opportunity to purchase 132 acres along this section of the Trail.
The property was being sold at a court-ordered auction. When the Tioga State Forest staff saw the auction sign they quickly called their central office in Harrisburg to see if there would be some way to buy the property. There isn’t a way for state departments to attend auctions and buy properties, since the rules require various offices and departments to review sales contracts for real estate. But the property is home to important ecological features, including extensive wetlands and wooded areas that provide wildlife habitat and support the ecosystem of Pine Creek. So staff from the central office contacted NPC to work out a solution.
NPC spoke to the staff from Harrisburg on a Monday. The auction was set for that Thursday. That left NPC 72 hours to determine if the property had conservation value, and if it was a feasible purchase. Fortunately, the organizational systems in place allowed the staff to research the conservation values of the land, visit the property to document its condition, gain board approval and authorization to bid, attend the auction, and be the highest bidder.
In December, NPC took title to the property. The organization will now begin working to convey the property to the Bureau of Forestry, which plans to create a parking area and access to the Trail. A few benches will be added to the property to allow bikers, hikers, walkers, and wanderers a place to rest. The Bureau will eventually create a walking trail to allow people to see more of the wetlands, and hopefully see more wildlife.