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East Lycoming land owners to be honored for preservation efforts

By Staff | Oct 1, 2013

Dr. Michael Gross and wife Rickie own Glacier Pools Preserve in Hughesville, and the couple will be honored at Merrill Linn Conservancy's 25th anniversary celebration on October 19 for their preservation efforts.

HUGHESVILLE – Michael and Rickie Gross, owners of Glacier Pools Preserve, a preserved property in eastern Lycoming County, will be among those honored at the Merrill Linn Conservancy’s 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, October 19 from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg. The event, which is free and open to all, will recognize landowners who have chosen to preserve their property through conservation easements. It will also be a springboard for the Conservancy’s new Linking Landscapes: Natural Area Networks Initiative, which seeks to protect wildlife biodiversity by maintaining and improving linkage of habitats within landscapes.

Reptiland’s Clyde Peeling will introduce the initiative with a presentation on the region’s native species and how fragmentation of habitats affects wildlife in the Central Susquehanna Valley.

Large, intact habitats, such as Dr. and Mrs. Gross’s 270-acre Glacier Pools Preserve, allow wildlife-both animal and plant communities-to survive and flourish.

The Gross’s bought the property in 1978, won over by its beauty and rock bottom price. “We weren’t looking for a big piece of land, but this property took us by surprise,” Dr. Gross says. It was understood in the community that the property-known as the Buck Farm-did not have clear title of ownership. “It turned out that the title had been cleared by a court action. We came in at the right time and got a great deal on this land,” Dr. Gross says.

The couple explored the land together. “We walked the property year after year eventually laying out trails. We gradually came to think of it as our own private state park,” Dr. Gross says. During their years of exploration, they learned about the plant life and the mammals, birds, butterflies and amphibians that populate the land.

They discovered 20 vernal pools-depressions in the landscape that fill with snow melt and rain in the spring providing a safe breeding habitat for amphibians. Because vernal pools dry up for as much as six months a year, fish populations that would feed on the young amphibians never become established. The vernal pools at Glacier Pools Preserve were most likely created by chunks of ice left by retreating glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.

Maintaining the property’s meadows has proven to be challenging. To prevent the meadows from turning to forest and keep them as habitat for ground-nesting birds, butterflies and wildflowers, they must be mowed periodically. Invasive plants must be pulled or sprayed to prevent them from crowding out the native plants.

The woodland also requires stewardship. The Gross’s are working with the Lycoming County Conservation District to create a five-year forestry plan that would allow strategic harvesting for improvement of habitats and trails.

In 2012 the Gross’s entered into a land trust agreement with the Merrill Linn Conservancy. A close friend, Joe Smith, treasurer of the East Lycoming Recreation Authority, proposed that his agency act as trail stewards and include these trails in their liability insurance coverage.

For more information about Glacier Pools Preserve and its trails, go to glacierpoolspreserve.com.