Heritage, history, nature

MUNCY – Offering both nature and a rich history, Heritage Park and Nature Trail was dedicated earlier this week by the Muncy Historical Society.

The park features walking trails and signage around Fisher’s Pond that explains the ecological surroundings as well as the area’s history dating to the early 1800s.

Having purchased the 11 acres of land in the 1960s, it was C. Donald Fisher’s dream to see it eventually donated to the historical society. Upon his death, that dream was realized when, in 2004, his daughter,

Betty, donated the land to the society, according to Bill Poulton, executive director of the historical society.

On the property sits the Muncy entrance of the West Branch Canal that was used throughout the 19th century and, as Poulton explained, brought many jobs and goods to the area.

During a tour of the property, Poulton said one of the paths that visitors will walk along the canal was the actual tow path used during the time.

Evidence of the canal, such as the canal lock and port area, still may be seen while visiting the park.

During the process of preparing the park, the land was thoroughly explored through controlled archaeological digs, led by Robin Van Auken. In a 22-feet-deep well, Poulton said the digs uncovered water cups, bottles and a Civil War uniform button. He hopes that more digs by Van Auken may be performed in other sections of the park.

But the canal is not the only historical offering at the park as it also allows visitors to view the site of the “last raft” crash, an event that saw seven people die while floating down the Susquehanna River. The trip took place to celebrate the area’s lumber history in 1938 but, unable to avoid a bridge, the raft broke apart, tossing occupants into the river.

Poulton said many people observed the tragedy.

“It was a big deal. This was the last raft,” he said.

The park was a community project, Poulton said. A bridge and observation deck were constructed by local Boy Scouts.

The park is an important gift to the community as it keeps its history alive, he said.

“It’s here for people to enjoy and experience,” he said. “It’s invaluable.”

And as more people visit the park, its history will continue to be told. He added that he continues to see those who already have visited the park bring others with them who haven’t.

“The stories are constantly being retold. That’s history,” Poulton said.

And with plans for a canal bridge and pavilion to be constructed in the coming years, Poulton stressed that “our work is not done.”

“The park’s evolving. We won’t be here 100 years from now. Our grandchildren and your grandchildren will be enjoying the park so our work is not done,” he said.