Walk in Penn’s Woods: New initiative on Oct. 1 showcases state’s forests

New initiative on Oct. 1 showcases state's forests

PHOTO PROVIDED An unidentified person walks on the Bluebird Trail at the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority property near DuBoistown.

A new program, initiated by Penn State’s Center for Private Forests along with the Bureau of Forestry, kicks off this fall to showcase the many values and uses of Pennsylvania’s forests.

Throughout the state, local water authorites, sawmills, landowners and conservation groups are collaborating to hold events on Oct. 1 for the program, which is named “Walk in Penn’s Woods.”

Pennsylvania’s forests played a large role in the region’s history. The forests cleared during the lumbering era supported the country’s shipbuilding industry, furniture factories and charcoal furnaces.

In the last 100 years, many of the areas previously cleared of trees have regrown into forests.

Matt Sampson, a board member with the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, has helped organize an event in Tioga County at Irion Lumber Co., 980 Calkins Road in Wellsboro. It will begin at 2:30 p.m. and cover about 1.5 miles on gentle terrain.

“We’re going to take a walk on the trails and old roads on the property so people can see the landowner’s woodlot. We’ll also be passing by some of their pastures. We’ll end back at the lumber company’s sawmill,” Sampson said.

While no “formal” presentations are planned, people familiar with general forest management, timber quality, sawmilling, conservation easements, furniture making, as well as wildlife management, are participating in the event and will be on hand to help answer questions and discuss what is seen along the walk.

“We’re hoping that by keeping it more informal, we’ll be able to answer questions as they come up and talk about what people are interested in,” Sampson said.

Walt Nicholson is planning a Walk in Penn’s Woods as well as an open house at the Waterdale Lodge, which is near the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority’s filtration plant in Mosquito Valley.

Since retiring from the authority, Nicholson has been organizing educational field days for various school groups.

On Oct. 1, people will be able to take a short, programmed walk around the environmental center or take a self-guided walk on the Bluebird Trail.

Pamphlets will be available for those who wish to take a self-guided walk, as will maps for the Bluebird and Raccoon Mountain trails, which can be accessed from the end of Mosquito Valley Road.

“We’re using the center to help students gain a better understanding of water and water quality. Forests play a vital role in keeping water clean. This is a great opportunity to join a statewide effort to get people outside and in the woods,” Nicholson said.

Activities planned for the day include:

• Exhibits on display at Waterdale Lodge from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

• Guided bird and nature trail walk hosted by Lycoming Audubon at 2 p.m. at the lodge.

• Gathering stream insects by a team from the Lycoming County Conservation District and Lycoming College;

• Experts on plants and trees will discuss the plants in the woods.

“We’ve designed it to be an open house so people can stop in and spend as much time as they want,” Nicholson said. “We’re hoping the flexibility allows more people to spend some time with us learning more about woods that cover the hillsides we look at every day.”

Dwight Lewis Lumber Co. in Sullivan County also is hosting an event. Mel Lewis will lead a walk that begins at 2 p.m. Participants will see an area where an ash tree salvage cut took place as well as where a deer fence was installed to help the forest regrow.

Lewis said participants should meet along Route 42, 2 miles east of Eagles Mere, or 3.5 miles west of Laporte. He’ll have signs along the road to help people know where to park.

When asked why Lewis Lumber is participating, he said, “I have been fortunate to spend time walking in the woods my whole life. If I can use what I’ve learned to help other people understand more about forests and how important they are, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Nancy Baker is one of the organizers of the statewide effort as well as a Bradford County forest landowner.

“The objective of each ‘Walk in Penn’s Woods’ event is to showcase how all of the commonwealth’s forests — private, public and industrial — work for all of its citizens. Penn’s Woods are one of the state’s prized crown jewels; they include some of the most intact

and bountiful hardwood forest lands in the temperate world. Not only do they provide a spectacular and valuable regenerating timber resource, but they provide incalculable value as a water resource, pollution filter, carbon store, wildlife habitat and biodiversity reserve, urban refuge and a priceless source of recreational and aesthetic enjoyment,” Baker said.

“We wanted an opportunity for adults and kids across the state to get out and learn about the woods and natural areas that make up so much of our state,” said Dr. Allyson Muth, associate director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

She and the center are maintaining a website that lists all the walks being held on Oct. 1.

In addition to the events in Tioga County at Irion Lumber and in Lycoming County at the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority, regional walks are planned near Albany in Bradford County, at Montour Preserve in Montour County and outside of Elysburg in Northumberland County.

Directions for all the registered events can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/walkinpennswoods/where-are-the-walks-happening.