Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today visited Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Cumberland County to highlight the addition of 68 acres to the park that will provide more accessible hiking opportunities and conserve amphibian habitat threatened by the impacts of climate change.
The property contains several vernal pools and a section of Kings Gap Hollow Run, which has a native brook trout population.
“Vernal pools are essential breeding habitat for some salamanders and frogs, which under climate change predictions could dry earlier in the year impacting their reproduction,” Dunn said. “This makes it critically important to conserve and restore the springtime wet areas that we have, which is why we are pleased to include this property at Kings Gap.”
Dunn also noted the property is very flat in comparison to the many areas of Kings Gap and would provide more accessible hiking opportunities for those who can’t traverse many of the center’s more demanding trails.
The property known as the Sutton Tract was transferred to DCNR by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
Since acquiring the property in 2007, TNC has worked closely with DCNR and other partners to identify vernal pools for protection and restoration, and implement additional conservation strategies to benefit the health of the surrounding forest.
“For almost 50 years, The Nature Conservancy has had the honor of helping to establish and grow Kings Gap through land acquisitions and transfers,” said Lori Brennan, Director of the Pennsylvania and Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Just over a decade ago, the Conservancy worked to restore the vernal pools on the Sutton tract and we’re confident that they’re now in excellent hands with DCNR. By making these pools part of Kings Gap, we’re also helping to protect local amphibian populations and the park’s overall biodiversity.”
Vernal pools are temporary springtime wetlands that host and nourish globally rare salamanders, frog,s and other woodland species before drying up by summertime.
The property borders several thousand feet of Kings Gap Road at the entrance to the center. The forest habitat of the property is more diverse and accessible than the majority of the center’s land.
With the newly added land, Kings Gap now encompasses almost 2,600 acres.
The grounds include more than 25 miles of hiking trails and the 32-room stone mansion that houses the park office and provides overnight accommodations.
TNC helped establish King’s Gap State Environmental Education Center in the early 1970s with land acquired from the Masland family (1,430 acres).
Then in 2010, TNC helped double the size of the state park with the protection of the Pine Brook project (1,077 acres) that reconnected land with the former Masland family property from which it was separated.
Kings Gap sits astride South Mountain, and is included in the South Mountain Conservation Landscape Initiative that encompasses Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties.
The South Mountain Partnership working on the initiative promotes and hopes to encourage economic growth and revitalize local communities based on the abundance of recreational and heritage tourism opportunities in the region.