DCNR secretary visits new canoe launch site in Avis

JONATHAN BERGMUELLER/Sun-Gazette George Durrwachter begins to cut the ribbon to celebrate the official opening of the Phelps Mill canoe access ramp to Pine Creek on June 25 in Avis. A collaboration of entities transformed an unofficial trail on private property into a canoe launch for the public to enjoy the creek at.

The state secretary of the Department of the Conservation of Natural Resources traveled to Clinton County for the opening of the Phelps Mill canoe access ramp in Avis.

The access ramp replaces a muddy and knotweed-infested descent to Pine Creek from a small landing on the Avis side of the creek.

The project is a culmination of collaboration between several different groups. The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservatory purchased the plot from the previous landowners and collaborated with the Clinton County Visitor’s Bureau to fund an improvement project at the site.

Meanwhile, donations poured in to fund the acquisition of the land and execution of the project.

Previously, the property was privately owned; residents who wanted to launch canoes or other watercraft technically trespassed to do so at the site. So, Dr. George and Shirley Durrwachter donated money the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy required to purchase the land.

“This is a great day for Pine Creek,” Durrwachter said. “We have great hiking trails, but water trails are just as important.”

Durrwachter said this access point will allow visitors to travel the creek to the Susquehanna River and, eventually, Jersey Shore.

For his contribution, Durrwachter cut the ribbon as the site opened.

The project was not without roadblocks, according to Renee Carey, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservatory Executive Director.

“We thought at one point, the project might not happen. We found a deed for an old gas station here,” Carey said.

Carey said certain environmental requirements related to the presence of that gas station could have ended the project; but they worked through them to ensure the site was a safe place to put an official boat launch.

After the project’s completion, the conservancy sold the land to DCNR, which added the area to the Tiadaghton State Forest.

“I think we can all agree this is a beautiful sight,” Carey said. “I hope you can all use this to get on and off the creek.”

Commissioner Jeff Snyder represented the Clinton County Board of Commissioners at the opening.

“We all know that recreational activities help manage stress, provide a sense of balance and reduce anxiety and depression,” Snyder said.

Clinton County’s Tourism & Recreation Grant Program helped the project along by awarding $4,300 to support the launch.

“While we don’t have large sums to offer, we do try to make meaningful contributions,” Snyder said.

Additionally, the Western Pennsylvania Canoe Access Fund helped financially support the project.

Cindy Adams Dunn, the secretary of DCNR, said Pennsylvanians either rediscovered a love of the outdoors, or found new hobbies while most of the world was shut down.

“And, halfway through this year, these numbers are still going up,” Dunn said, forecasting optimism for outdoor recreation.

The amount of Pennsylvanians enjoying outdoor has seen a drastic increase since the onset of the pandemic. Despite cancelling events that planned to draw thousands of people to state parks, those state parks saw an increase in their visitation of 26 percent.

Meanwhile, Bike sales increased by 120 percent, and kayak sales increased by 85 percent.

“Thank you for offering another reason to be proud of our County and thank you for growing recreation in Clinton County,” Snyder said.


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