Perhaps you have heard of Friends of Governor Dick, but if you haven’t, allow us to introduce ourselves; Friends of Governor Dick is a Pennsylvania Non-Profit, formed from a diverse group of residents and visitors to the Governor Dick Park who wish to promote the continued health of the forest. Read on for how you can help raise your voices to preserve the wonderful forest at Governor Dick!
In 1936, Clarence Schock made his woodland property above Mount Gretna (now known as Governor Dick) available for the enjoyment of the public. He then deeded the property in the form of a park to The School District of the Borough of Mount Joy in 1953, saying in the deed that transferred ownership of the property that it “shall be maintained and preserved forever as forest and woodland.”
In 1980 Donegal School District, (formerly Mount Joy) made the decision to begin forest harvests and funds from the harvests was put into a fund intended to be used to upgrade the school building. Additionally, some timber was used for school shop projects.
Management of the park was transferred to Lebanon County (the county in which the park sits) in 1996. By 1999, a proposal was presented to make large changes at the park, adding the environmental center, a proposed cell phone tower, and additional timber harvesting. By 2002, residents were concerned enough about the changes to form the first Friends group. Public pushback influenced the scaling back of the scope of proposed projects, but timber harvests continued.
Two decades later, Friends wants what Clarence Schock wanted, a well-maintained and healthy forest where folks can recreate and enjoy the beauty of the land there. While the Friends and the Board both state that the health of the park is the goal—the difference is how each group defines “health” and what needs to be done to maintain the forest. Generally, the board believes that the forest today is in danger not because it is unhealthy, but because it is mature. Their views lean heavily on commercial forestry practices used to regenerate forests for future timber harvesting. The Friends of Governor Dick favor ecological forestry management, which considers more than future timbering options. We also factor in healthy regeneration that will prolong the life of the forest as a whole.
In April 2023 the Friends presented our case for ecological forest practices to the Lebanon County Commissioners. The Board presented a rebuttal from the park board of directors in August 2023, where they reiterated their support for repeating the methods they have been using for the past two decades—methods that have failed to produce the effect they say that they will. Instead of heathy forest growth in the previously cut areas, there are large swaths of invasive species and single species of trees rather than the variety that is the hallmark of a healthy forest. To date, the Commissioners support the board in continuing to use the same failed method.
Efforts to Support Governor Dick
Many of you have supported us over the past year by:
- Reading our whitepaper presented to the Commissioners.
- Attending the Commissioner Workshop presentation of our concerns.
- Coming to the walk in the woods with Commissioner Mike Kuhn.
- Enjoyed our For the Love of Gretna party celebrating our natural surroundings.
- Signed up for our mailing list to stay informed.
- Written letters to the Lebanon County Commissioners letting them know what you think of the current forest management activities that are detrimental to the forest.
- Read our writeup that published by The Old Growth Forest Network Threatened Forest examples (scroll to “Pennsylvania” on the page.)
- Represented Friends of Governor Dick by attending the park Board of Directors response to our presentation to the Commissioners.
- Watched our response to the park board’s response at a Commissioner’s bi-weekly meeting.
- Reading our website.
- “Liking” us on Facebook.
Whew! We‘ve been busy, but our work is not finished!
- A hike with Michael Schroeder who is a candidate for commissioner, and hopefully getting Commissioners Phillips and Litz to visit the forest with us.
- Scheduling a Wednesday Workshop session with the Commissioners featuring Joan Maloof, Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University, and Founder of The Old Growth Forest Network.
- Hold a Friends’ membership meeting.
- In progress: Documentary film project – telling people’s experience with the park.
- Dedicated Friends of Governor Dick shelf at community library.
- Coordinate volunteers to work at the park via our liaison on the park trail advisory committee.
- Expand our social media presence- YouTube, Instagram, etc., and create content.
- Set up info table in a public area for outreach.
How you can help…
- There is still time to participate in our 2023 Letter Writing Campaign.
- Sign up for our mailing list if you haven’t already.
- Contact us with ideas on how to break through to the Commissioners and Park Board of Directors or if you would like to help with any of the actives we are planning.
- Read through historical accounts of advocacy compiled by the original Friends of Governor Dick.
- Read through historical information about Governor Dick Park compiled by the Lebanon County Commissioners.
- Help us make your voice heard!
See you on the trails!