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Blazed trails in the woods now open to visitors

By Staff | Oct 16, 2012

Nature lovers follow Dr. Michael Gross as he guides them through two and a half miles of nature trails and vernal pools throughout the 250 acre property during Saturday's open house. The trails are protected by a conservation easement with Merrill Linn Conservancy and public access is sponsored by the East Lycoming Recreation Authority.

A new trail system is now officially open to the public in East Lycoming County. On a crisp Saturday morning, October 13, several naturalists from the area gathered for an open house at the Glacier Pools Preserve where two and a half miles of trails have been created on 250 protected acres by owners Dr. Michael and Rickie Gross. For the past 34 years the couple and their family have enjoyed the wildflower meadows, mature woods with hard oaks, scenic vistas and more than 18 vernal pools that have existed untouched since the beginning of time.

Because the Gross’s wanted to keep the land intact and preserve its geological history, a conservation easement was created with Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy. Public access to the trails is sponsored by the East Lycoming Recreation Authority.

Representatives from the two organizations came together along with the Gross’s and several friends for a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the property. Guided laminated maps are provided in a kiosk built by Dr. Gross pointing out some of the glacier pools and unique seasonal features. Allen Schweinsberger from the Conservancy who accompanied the tour said that 7 new species of butterflies never recorded in Lycoming County have been discovered here. The most unique one was the “Edwards Hairstreak”. “It is a very unusual butterfly here in Pennsylvania,” said Schweinsberger. “It likes the scrub oak.”

Before the tour Dr. Gross thanked a welcoming crowd, especially his close friend Joe Smith who was pivotal in helping the Gross’s through a four year process to conserve the land and share it with the public. Smith, who resides in Pennsdale with his wife Chris, is also Treasurer of the East Lycoming Recreation Authority (ELRA). Smith was involved with the project and was pleased that the ELRA could be a supporting agency. “It is a forever thing. We can be stewards to maintaining the trails and see that it is used properly by the public,” Smith said.

“It is a real treat to cut a ribbon and make it official,” remarked Dr. Gross. “This is also a perfect example how municipal authorities and various townships come together to promote and encourage the support of recreational opportunities,” explained Jeff Bower, President of the ELRA who also cited the example of Lime Bluff Park. “I am thrilled to be part of this, negotiating our role and proud to be designated as a supporter and have this beautiful place available to the public,” said Bower who also helped to cut the ribbon.

Rickie Gross, co-owner of Glacier Pools Preserve cuts the ribbon with friend and office manager, Joanie Yagel during an open house Saturday morning.

“250 acres of peace and quiet. This is a calm, tranquil, spectacular place with awesome features,” added Schweinsberger. “It is a wonderful resource here.” Four biologists, 3 from Bucknell University and one from Lycoming College, also came for the tour and ceremony as well as Clyde Peeling from Montgomery and his son, Chad. There is mountain laurel in the spring, colorful, spectacular bee balm in the summer, wildlife in the fall and of course, the glacier pools at their best in the winter.

Glacier Pools Preserve is now part of 15 parcels totaling 1,107 acres with the Merrill Linn Conservancy with landowners who have entered into conservation agreements according to Geoff Goodenow, Coordinator. “Our role is to enforce those easement terms forever,” said Goodenow. If the property is acquired by another owner, he or she will be bound by the conservation easement. “The document becomes part of the deed so they agree to the easements,” he added.

The Merrill Linn Conservancy was founded in 1988 in memory of attorney, Merrill W. Linn who spent much of his lif outdoors. “Next year will be our 25th year,” said Diane Donato who came with Pat Arduini from the education committee of the conservancy. Tailored to the owner’s wishes and needs, the Conservancy seeks to protect and preserve significant ecological sites for present and future generations.

The trails on the Glacier Pools Preserve can be accessed from 757 Pine Tree Road, Hughesville, PA. For directions go to www.glacierpoolspreserve.com. The trails are mostly located in Wolf Township.