We are the Friends of Governor Dick. A loose alliance of lovers of the park with widely disparate interests and concerns, united by a common desire to retain Governor Dick as the remarkable unspoiled preserve that it is. Governor Dick is a 1,105 forest and woodland park open to the public since the mid-1930’s and donated to the community in the mid-1950’s, located near Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania. We will use this site to communicate what we love about Governor Dick and what concerns us about the management of the national resources of Governor Dick.
Governor Dick Hill, More Than Trees
Early visitors to Mount Gretna appreciated its natural beauty. They took part in Campmeeting and Chautauqua nature studies. And they wrote glowingly of trailing arbutus, orchids, violets, ferns, mountain laurel, and fungi.
Governor Dick still has an abundance of natural beauty. Spring wildflowers such as bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpit, rue anemone, round-lobed hepatica, and solomon’s seal take advantage of spring sunshine, blooming before trees cast the forest into a deep summer shade. Understory trees such as shadbush, redbud, dogwood, and pawpaw also bloom at this time. The pawpaw tree is a signature species and has great value for one of our magnificent butterflies, the Zebra Swallowtail or commonly known as the kite swallowtail, not to mention pawpaw fruit is good eating!
Amphibians are active throughout the spring. The shrill whistles of breeding peepers and the guttural croaks of wood frogs begin the amphibian breeding season. Warmer days bring out American toads, bullfrogs, and green frogs. Though silent, salamanders are no less active. Red-backed salamanders are one of the most abundant forest species, averaging two or three individuals every square yard.
Birdsongs fill the forest every spring as waves of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other migratory songbirds seek out forests like Governor Dick. Having flown all night, they spend the day resting and refueling before continuing on their migration.
But many birds stay. Ovenbirds, worm-eating warblers, red-eyed vireos, scarlet tanagers, and wood thrushes are just a few of the species that need large, undisturbed forests like Governor Dick to successfully nest.
Flycatchers, along with warblers and vireos, perform a valuable service by controlling insect populations. Pewees, phoebes, and great-crested flycatchers can be seen throughout the summer as they hunt for insects to feed their hungry families.
By summer’s end white wood asters and Virginia knotweed are blooming. Birds are beginning their journey south. Also flying south are the seemingly delicate Monarch butterflies. They must survive storms, mountains, and hungry birds on their way to Mexico. During September, a steady stream of monarchs fly past Governor Dick’s observation tower. Also flying past are hawks. Unfortunately, the cage added in recent years atop the tower makes hawkwatching nearly impossible. Distant, moving birds are obscured by thick, black, blurry lines when viewed through binoculars.
Nevertheless, hawks still pass overhead. Broad-winged hawks (sometimes hundreds at a time), bald eagles, kestrels, and ospreys begin in late August and September. Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and red-tailed hawks follow. Black and turkey vultures arrive by November. Red-shouldered hawks, harriers, golden eagles, and goshawks also pass Governor Dick.
The tower is probably most popular in October. During the peak of fall foliage the platform is standing-room-only on weekends. Ladybugs by the thousands are also drawn to the tower, bringing with them nuthatches, wrens and other birds hungry for a crunchy snack.
Winter is a good time for long, exploratory hikes. The risk of poison ivy, ticks and copperheads is less. There are no wildflowers to trample or nesting birds to disturb. And the rock formations, geology and geography are more easily studied.
Postscript: The text of this section is borrowed from an older, abandoned, Friends of Governor Dick website (https://governordick.tripod.com); minor formatting and editing has been added. We would love to know who penned these beautiful words, if you recognize them, please use the contact form to reach out.