Muncy Heritage Trail completing third phase
MUNCY – Developed for its historical significance and resting on 11 acres of land, the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail has almost completed its third phase of development. The site, located at the end of Pepper Street along the river’s edge, is rich in history. It is the origin of Muncy’s illustrious canal industry when Port Penn was booming with commerce and local trade.
Much infrastructure has gone into the planning and design of this park that is a secret gem to many who live here. The canal trail where mules and horses once pulled canal boats, runs approximately 10 to 12 feet wide. Trail markers are placed along the groomed trails explaining the canal boats, the native trees and the special migratory birds and water fowl that frequent the site each season. From chirping sparrows to great blue herons, gold finches and catbirds, the site is a delight for all bird lovers. Several blue bird feeders are also placed throughout the trail system and a bird blind is strategically placed to observe the water fowl without disturbing them.
The Heritage Park is a partnership program administered through the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Muncy Historical Society. The signs, markers and trails were completed in December 2011.
With easy access and parking, the well-kept trail circles a pond, natural streams, and native wildflowers that can easily be enjoyed by everyone. The infrastructure was a two year process according to Bill Poulton, who oversaw most of the work. Eventually the tow path will extend back into Pepper Street which will be part of the fourth phase. “This park is a nice access to the Susquehanna River,” said Linda Poulton from the Muncy Historical Society. Many partners have come together for the land conservation. That includes the PA Humanities Council, the PA Lumber Heritage Region, Susquehanna Greenway and the PA Historical and Museum Commission. According to the Poultons, a low impact development grant with Susquehanna Greenway and the Endless Mountain Corridor, was used to help prevent any run-off into the Susquehanna River. “The park has become a beauty,” said Linda Poulton.
Volunteers work to maintain the trails and the existing pond that is laced with colorful lily pads, live fish and reptiles. There was once a milk pond there used for the canal but it eventually was grown over with weeds. The pond that remains on the current site was built in 1965. On the other side of the park is an overlook to the Last Raft where a designated historical marker tells the story of the terrible accident that took place there.
This fall more natives will be planted by the pavilion that is designed like an old mule barn. An observation deck lies close to the water’s edge and a 45 foot wooden bridge connects the trails over a stream and leads into a parking area. All of these wooden projects were built by Eagle Scouts, Troop 25 according to the Poultons. The Lumber Heritage Region helped with the signage, and once the archaeological dig was finished, dirt could be moved to make way for the trails.
The trail system was designed to withstand high waters and last September’s flooding withstood any major damage. “The pavilion was built high enough so it wouldn’t flood,” said Linda Poulton. Another pavilion will be built to house the newer cargo boat from Easton that is currently in storage.
Phase three of this project is almost completed as a proposal for a grant is in process. “We want to build a farm bridge to expand the canal,” said Bill Poulton who had just returned from a meeting with the Lycoming County Conservation division. “We are going to rebuild the bridge to connect the other side of the tow path from the south side to the north side,” he said, “and replicate as best we can as it existed in 1834, but keep it ADA compliant.” Depending on funding, the engineering study, construction of the bridge and related permits, Poulton hopes to start the process soon to complete phase three. “We are receiving bids right now and hope to start by early spring,” he added. Part of the funding will come from a mini grant with Susquehanna Greenway, and the Lycoming County Planning and Community Development is helping with the application.
Phase four will be the final phase of the Heritage Park and Trails and will re-establish the original tow path from the new bridge to Pepper Street and interconnect the trails to the river while restoring the canal basin.
“It’s become a place of solitude, walking the nature trails and observing the historic elements of the park. It is a countywide vision,” added Poulton.