RALSTON - Gas companies may be a prevalent force in the area, but some local people are joining forces to try to stop drilling from a certain section of state forest here.
They are planning to show support for the Rock Run watershed section of the Loyalsock State Forest, which they say is being threatened by drilling, by gathering at the Ralston Fire Co. to stage a "Keep it Wild" event at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We want to draw attention to the fact that this beautiful area ... is going to have gas development in the general vicinity (of Rock Run)," said Ralph Kisberg, president of the board of the Responsible Drilling Alliance.
Rock Run splashes its way across some rocks near Old Loggers Path and Yellow Dog Road in Loyalsock State Forest.
Kisberg said that the stream and green scenery is the "area's gem." He added: "We don't think it's the right place for it."
When asked about the situation in the area, Christina Novak, press secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said there is not yet any drilling activity at Rock Run.
But in an email Novak went on to say that there is no way of knowing what will happen in the Rock Run area in the future.
"In this area, there is a complex combination of publicly and privately owned surface and subsurface rights, so at the moment there is no definitive answer about what will occur in the future," she said.
With an uncertain future for the area, the group of concerned citizens will meet behind the fire company Saturday. From there the group will walk into the section of forest to see the sights and to show what they are fighting for.
"We want to meet in Ralston and get some people together that feel that this area is off-limits to gas development. This should be the last place it occurs," Kisberg said.
Jeff Mitchell, of Tunkhannock, has visited the area many times and said it's one of his favorite places.
"It's a very special place," he said. "The pools are absolutely crystal clear ... It's really, really exceptional."
Taking her classes to Rock Run plenty of times, Lynn Estomin, an art professor at Lycoming College, is concerned about the area as her students use the scenery for assignments.
"Rock Run is a place where we have taken art students to photograph and paint for over 20 years and to think that there's going to be oil rigs and not waterfalls is devastating," she said.
Estomin went on to say that the peaceful setting is what kept her from leaving the area.
"One of the reasons that I stayed in this area is it's a beautiful area. Otherwise I would be living in the bigger cities with more culture," Estomin said.
Kisberg mentioned that he's met people who have traveled three hours to enjoy the area.
"It has its value," he said. "You feel the experience is degraded when you go to areas ... that are being developed (for gas drilling). That changes that experience."
Kisberg said families and friends hike in the area and camp. He added that anyone who has used the trails or streams are who he represents.
"This is really an important area because it's as remote as we get. There are people out there (who care) and we want to represent those people," he said.
All agreed that the residents and visitors would be losing an "exceptional" piece of the area if the forest was drilled.
Mitchell said the remoteness would be lost, along with trees and wildlife. He also said that road conditions would worsen from more traffic.
"(The area) would be losing water. It would be losing scenery. It would be losing privacy," Estomin said. "It would be tearing up the roads. You would be seeing rigs instead of trees."
Kisberg said the group isn't there to start trouble but to give their opinion on the situation.
"You just want your voice heard that this is wrong," he said. "What we would like to see is the negotiation between DCNR and gas companies involved be public and have public comments."
Estomin said the Rock Run area needs the public's support.
"I encourage people to come out. It's one of the special places in the area and something that I feel we have the responsibility to save and preserve," she said.
"I hope it's preserved. I'm not against gas drilling but I just think that some places should be set aside and preserved for future generations," Mitchell added.