The Merrill Linn Conservancy has purchased 36 acres of ecologically significant land on Shikellamy Bluffs adjacent to Shikellamy State Park. The property, previously owned by Richard and Miranda McGinnis of Lewisburg, was acquired as part of the Conservancy’s Linking Landscapes Initiative, which seeks to make connections between protected open spaces for the well-being of wildlife that live in our human-fragmented landscapes and to protect watersheds to maintain high-quality water resources.
The Shikellamy Bluffs transaction was financed through a grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority and donations from philanthropic organizations, businesses and individual donors. The balance was covered by a loan from Mifflinburg Bank & Trust, according to the Conservancy’s president Susan Warner-Mills. “We still have appreciable funds to raise in order to pay off the loan; once we are able to do that, we will be in a position to convey the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so that it can become part of Shikellamy State Park,” said Ms. Warner-Mills.
The former McGinnis property is an area of multi-tiered native forests with a canopy of red oak, chestnut oak, American basswood, red maple, sugar maple and Virginia pine, among other natives. It is a valuable habitat for mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Protection of the property’s forest is in accordance with the goals of both the Union County Comprehensive Plan and the Chesapeake Executive Council’s directive on protecting forests.
Shikellamy State Park currently protects about 160 acres of land adjacent to the bluffs. “The acquisition of an additional 36 acres is an opportunity to link landscapes and protect the land forever from private development. It would enlarge the natural area protected by Shikellamy State Park by 18 percent,” Ms. Warner-Mills said.
She noted that the acquisition has been made possible by the support and partnership of local and county government agencies, conservation organizations and individuals. “I want to thank the Linn Conservancy board members for their tireless commitment to this project and the Commonwealth Financing Authority, whose initial grant made possible all of our subsequent successes.
“Other people and organizations also made this purchase possible. First and foremost are the Union County Commissioners and Union County Planning Department, also the Degenstein Foundation, PPL and many generous individual donors. We also thank our state legislators Fred Keller and Gene Yaw, the Union Township Supervisors, Mifflinburg Bank and Trust for facilitating our loan, Coldwell Banker Penn One Real Estate and our attorney Tom Clark and his staff,” she said.
“Just as so many of our 120 state parks across the state are known for their own unique natural resources, many of those parks truly shine because of the unique contributions of dedicated groups like the Merrill Linn Conservancy,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Almost 40 acres protected as parkland have been added to offer breath-taking views and a haven for birds and plants of special concern.
“I know our Bureau of State Parks is most appreciative of the support and assistance in this project from Merrill Linn, Susquehanna Greenways, Union County Planning Office, and the Union County Board of Commissioners,” Ms. Dunn said.
The Linking Landscapes Initiative is a core component of the Conservancy’s strategic plan and was the inspiration of the Conservancy’s coordinator, Geoff Goodenow. “The Initiative recognizes that viable habitat, both land and water, is critical to the survival of all organisms. As forests, wetlands, open spaces, waterways and other habitats are converted to human uses, the remaining natural landscapes become fragmented and isolated. When species lose both their natural habitat and the ability to move between regions to use all of the resources they need to survive, biodiversity is threatened,” Mr. Goodenow said.
The Linn Conservancy and its affiliate, Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance (BCWA), are working to establish and maintain connections within the landscape in order to enhance the resilience of protected areas and to slow the loss of biodiversity.
This long-term strategic initiative examines existing ecological connections among our region’s protected areas and then seeks to establish new connections and adjacencies among these sites regardless of whether they are protected by public ownership (e.g., state parks, state forests, game lands), foundation ownership (e.g., Degenstein Turtle Creek Park), agricultural preservation or Linn Conservancy conservation easements. “The bottom line is that developing and maintaining landscape connections is central to the Conservancy’s efforts,” Mr. Goodenow said.
The Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy is a volunteer organization, founded in 1988 to honor the memory of local attorney and outdoorsman Merrill Linn. It has helped protect 18 properties, totaling more than 1200 acres. These include such popular sites as the Dale/Engle/Walker Property—home of Dale’s Ridge Trail—Glacier Pools Preserve in Lycoming County, the Koon’s Property and Trail in Mifflinburg, and the Shamokin Mountain Trail in Union Twp. off Forest House Lane.
The Conservancy’s mission is to preserve and protect ecologically significant sites in Union, upper Northumberland, and contiguous counties and to educate the public on conservation issues critical to the health of our environment. For further information about the Conservancy’s activities and volunteer opportunities, call 570-524-8666 or go to www.linnconservancy.org.