Hard work ahead!

Ever have an issue with your computer and the first thing the IT professional asked was “Did you reboot?” The trustees for Governor Dick have a similar standby response for any “negative” act of nature that occurs in the woodlands of Governor Dick—“cut it down!” Unlike your computer, the old standby for the forest, cut it down, is not the best response to perceived negative acts of nature within woodlands.

There are numerous alternatives to cutting woodlands, some even generate revenue. This post serves as an introduction to a series of upcoming posts that will provide an overview of some of the alternatives to cutting down trees within Governor Dick—trees that were intended by Clarence and Evetta Schock to be preserved forever.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
President John F. Kennedy

The Schock’s had a long-term vision for Governor Dick and entrusted it to others to nurture and expand, along with the financial means to do so. However, public opinion indicates that over the years the trustees have taken the easy road and are not nurturing the woodlands of Governor Dick as the Schock’s intended. Friends of Governor Dick are willing to do the hard work to research alternatives to cutting the mountain of riches that were left to all of us and future generations.

Conservation – The Schock’s were ahead of their time with respect to conservation—their deed for Governor Dick reads like a conservation easement document 13 years before there were such documents in Pennsylvania.

The following is an excerpt of the terms and conditions section of the deed; it mentions the original trustee, The School District of the Borough of Mt. Joy, however, the current trustee is Lebanon County (Commissioners).

“To HAVE AND TO HOLD the tract of land above described with appurtenances IN TRUST forever as a playground and public park, upon the following terms and conditions:
The portion thereof which is now forest or woodland shall be maintained and preserved forever as forest and woodland and where possible additional portions shall be planted as forest and woodland; Hunting and shooting and the smoking of cigars, cigarettes, pipes and tobacco shall be prohibited all times upon the land hereby conveyed; the land shall be posted with notices at least once each year forbidding hunting and shooting, and appropriate notices shall be maintained forbidding the smoking of cigars, cigarettes, pipes and tobacco upon the land;
The trust shall be for the enjoyment of persons traveling on foot; and no automobile, vehicle or mobile machinery shall be allowed to move or travel upon roads on the land hereby conveyed except upon the business of the trust or with the written permission of the trustee or upon such public roads as may hereafter be built by state or local authority;
The present Tower House and other portions of the land may be used and occupied without rent or charge by a caretaker or caretakers of the land;
The trustee shall have the right to make, amend, [alter] and repeal regulations for the administration control and public use of the trust property;
The trustee shall not be required to use public or school funds to maintain the trust property but shall have the power to receive and apply funds entrusted to it for the purpose of this grant; and
In the event The School District of The Borough of Mt. Joy, resigns or is unable or unwilling to serve as trustee of this trust, preference shall be given in the appointment of a successor or successors to other school districts or similar public authorities located near the lands hereby conveyed.”

Note: “mobile machinery” refers to “heavy equipment, except shop or hand tools, which is self-propelled, towed or hauled and used primarily in construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, ditches, buildings, or land reclamation.”

There are many benefits to conserving Governor Dick which encompasses several, if not all the remaining alternatives on our current list—our work has only just begun, we will continue to look for alternatives to cutting the woodlands of Governor Dick and try to work with the current board of trustees to identify an ecologically-sound management plan.

Forest Carbon Programs – In the first post in this series, Mike Sherman, Mount Gretna resident, will provide an overview of the benefit of implementing an improved forest management methodology. Carbon programs are an example of an alternative that would provide a revenue source that could augment the trust funds and reduce environmental impacts from certain harvest activities.

Nature Conservation Easements – Conservation easements permanently limit uses of the land to protect its natural conservation values. There are a variety of organizations in our area that work with landowners to preserve natural resources. In this upcoming post, Ned Gibble, Mount Gretna resident and Lebanon Valley Conservancy board member, will share his experience working with The Lebanon Valley Conservancy to permanently protect his family’s property that lies between the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail and Route 117—which is directly across the road, Route 117, from Governor Dick Park.

Local Watersheds – While no bodies of water are visible within Governor Dick, there is a connection between the park and a local watershed—Conewago Creek Watershed. In this post, associates from the Tri-County Conewago Creek Association will review those connections and practices that enhance and those that impact the watershed.

Historic Preservation – Historic preservation is very important to Mount Gretna. In this post, Sue Hostetter, Mount Gretna resident and Chairman of the Mount Gretna Area Historical Society, will discuss how Mount Gretna’s history intertwines with Governor Dick’s history.

Old Growth Forest Network – Those familiar with the history of Governor Dick know that it was continuously harvested for nearly two centuries (between 1700 and 1900) providing fuel—raw wood and then charcoal—in support of local iron furnaces; you may wonder how it could qualify as an old growth forest. What you may not know is that only a fraction of 1% of the original old growth forests that once stood along the Eastern United States remain standing today and efforts to preserve “future” old growth forests are invaluable. This post will introduce the work of the Old Growth Forest Network and how it could benefit Governor Dick.

Ecological Research – In addition to the importance of Governor Dick’s history to Mount Gretna, it may also be of interest to researchers. This post will describe the unique qualities of Governor Dick for ecological research such as: long term effects of charcoal production on forest degradation; the existence of imperiled species of native plants (Clinton’s Wood Fern); a serious invasive plant problem, including the newly banned Japanese Barberry; an overpopulation of deer, a habitat for birds that use the deep forest for nesting, most notably the wood thrush, whose song is associated with Mount Gretna; and more. If you have knowledge of other unique qualities of Governor Dick that may be of interest to researchers, please consider sharing them through the contact form.

These upcoming posts, presenting alternatives to cutting (or reasons to preserve) Governor Dick’s most important natural resource, only scratch the surface of the possible ways to nurture the park that was bequeathed to our community by Clarence and Evetta Schock. Time is of the essence to take a more ecologically-minded approach to managing all natural resources of the park as with each harvest the ecological value this land provides is diminished and lost for generations, the antithesis of the Schock’s vision—“maintained and preserved forever as forest and woodland ”

If you have other ideas for alternatives to timber harvests within Governor Dick, please consider sharing them through the contact form.

Watch this space!


by Deb Simpson, Mount Gretna Resident