Why the development is wrong

Wrong! – or What is Wrong with the Proposal?

No-one asked for the development, it makes no sense, and it is unnecessary.

This, with the understanding that the deed protects the park from development, the high ecological costs, the lack of any educational plan, the vagueness as to how the completion costs and running costs are to be met, and the inadequacy of the public notification process are among the reasons why the Friends Of Governor Dick oppose the proposed development. Read on:

The Deed


“TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the tract of land above described with the 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.”

Could anything be plainer? Additionally, It is the FIRST SENTENCE of the conditions.

(Italics ours. The full deed is available under Resources)

The Educational Plan

There isn’t one. There has been no evidence of market research of any kind done to establish a need for the proposed facility, never mind fine-tune the concept. No canvassing of the likely school districts. The report on which the plan is based actually suggests doing this once the development is complete. Cart, horse. (Somehow a near-half-million dollar project has been based on the ‘Field Of Dreams’ principle; “build it and they will come”. Try running THAT kind of business plan past financiers in the real world . . .)

There will be no staff naturalist, no natural history museum, no research facilities and no daily public programs. Given this, apart from somewhere to cower on a rainy day, it is difficult to envisage what use could be made of the facility by visiting students.

There is already a staffed and underutilised nature reserve facility at Middle Creek, less than 10 miles away; an underfunded ‘Nature Barn’ at Stoever’s Dam in Lebanon; in particular and by way of contrast to the board’s proposal, the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, near Reading, PA, is a glowing example of an enthusiastically staffed research center, and steadfastly ‘unmanaged’ forest.

The Financial Plan

There isn’t one, other than the state’s grant for the construction. How the current expenses (day-to-day, or running costs) of the proposed facility are intended to be met has not been made clear. There has been talk of logging (which rapidly became euphemized as ‘forestry management’). Logging is not in the best ecological interests of the park: Please see “What’s wrong with selective logging at Governor Dick”, below.

Logging a forest to pay the running costs of a forest’s educational center is an absurdity. Although sizable, the forest is not of sufficient size to sustain for long the degree of logging that would be required. Additionally, since by a logging company’s standards the cuts would be small, they would be fairly inefficient in terms of money raised per tree felled.

Other than that, and with no meaningful revenue from use of the main building, that really only leaves the Good Old Taxpayer. Meaning you and us. Again.

It gets worse. It has transpired that the state grant enabling the construction is insufficient; it is being out-spent and there isn’t enough left to finish even a scaled-back version of it. The board’s solution is: logging. Logging a forest to pay for building a forest’s educational center is an absurdity.

Inadequate Public consultation

The trustees seem genuinely bemused by the relatively recent and dramatic groundswell of concern about the proposed development. As far as they were concerned, they had made all the right moves in the way of public notification, disclosure and had held a public meeting. And that, it seems, was the sole opportunity for discussion. The trouble is not many people got to hear about it. Even in Gretna, where the fabled meeting was held in June 2000.

Shown here  is page 2 of the Lebanon Daily News of June 20th. 2000, found at quite some effort by our intrepid investigator. It shows, in the bottom right-hand corner, the sole notice for the meeting on June 21st., 2000 – the following day which reportedly attracted some 15 attendees.

In short, although the process followed is given to be understood all that was necessary, conspicuously little effort was otherwise expended by the board to raise awareness. This is evidenced by the later uproar as the details of the potential fait accomplis became more widespread, again with little thanks to the board.

Rather than being pro-active and ‘selling’ the idea, their taciturn stance is popularly perceived as ‘trying to sneak it through’.

Governor Dick’s user constituency is not specific to the Mount Gretna / West Cornwall area, where the public disclosure process unfolded; it is geographically far more widespread, with scant chance to have caught wind of something that would affect it greatly. (No meeting notices were posted at the park entrances which could have alerted these park users.) The result is that many intensely dismayed people – who hitherto felt there could be no possible reason to be concerned – are reacting as if to a shot in the dark, and with a sense of betrayal. To a large extent, the board has brought this crisis upon themselves.

Inadequate Justification Of Purpose

Already established is that the touted purported use, as an educational facility, is superficial and seemingly in name only. Mention has been made of part of the building as storage and display of Clarence Schock memorabilia; a worthwhile tribute to the man to whom we owe the park. It will be used for the monthly trustee board meetings, in place of the West Cornwall township office, and presumably rent-able by other organizations for their meetings.

So, in short, it’d be a museum and a sort of clubhouse.

This, to the minds of the Friends of Governor Dick, is utterly inadequate cause for the destruction of part of the park.


Already in the park is a marvelous monument to the lack of security of isolated, uninhabited buildings; that the tower is a tour de force of reinforced concrete is no architectural whim – it needs to be that way simply to have survived the onslaught of generations of vandals.

Yet here is a proposal to build some uninhabited wooden buildings, set way back out of sight and a long way from emergency response; there are few technological approaches to security (motion sensors, cameras, door/window alarms have been mentioned) which could not be thwarted by those determined on mischief, especially in so remote a spot.

A Very Dangerous Precedent

If this immediate hurdle is overcome – that of railroading through a perverse interpretation of the deed that supposedly permits development in the park – there will be considerably less leverage to prevent further, almost inevitable, development. The ‘second phase’ will become a shoe-in. Then the third. “It’s only four acres” (how big is your back yard?) will eventually lead to more; “Well, it’s only four acres, and it didn’t hurt last time, did it?” Then, hyperbolically, come the ice-cream stand, Starbucks, and a McDonalds.

A Life Of Its Own

There is the feeling that now a considerable state grant has been afforded, the proposed project will be forced ahead regardless of its merits or demerits, support or opposition, simply because human-nature recoils at the thought of not using the promised funds. That once the project has momentum, it will become a gaping maw continually needing feeding. A bureaucracy will evolve around it, spawning yet further expansion and costs in a self-fulfilling cycle.

Logging: What’s wrong with selective logging at Governor Dick?

While some species benefit from selective logging, many do not. Those helped are typically common and unendangered; the casualties are those far more in need of preservation. Many species of birds, salamanders and wildflowers are among those rapidly declining because of the loss of forests, forest fragmentation, and logging. Many are sensitive to any human activity. Despite heavy use, Governor Dick is valuable because much of it remains relatively undisturbed.

Logging, logging roads, and trails allow for increased predation by feral cats, raccoons, opossums, hawks, crows, etc. because of the opening up of forest interiors. Cowbird parasitism also increases, threatening nesting songbirds.

Disturbances caused by logging, and road and trail building, allows non-native invasive plants to crowd out native species. And if deer numbers are high, browsing can prevent forest regeneration.

Logging reduces the number of dead or dying trees in a forest. These are essential ingredients of a healthy forest. They are important sources of food and habitat. And decaying logs provide nutrients for the soil and erosion control for the forest.

Logging also increases the risk and severity of wildfires. It opens up the forest to greater wind circulation and more rapid drying. During droughts or high wind this can allow for the more rapid spread of fires.

We have plenty of managed forests. What we don’t have are many forests like Governor Dick. Not every forest needs to serve as a source of lumber, paper, and profits. Governor Dick is more valuable as it is.

It’s a bunch of trees!

Leave them alone!

Postscript: The text of this section is borrowed from an abandoned Friends of Governor Dick website from 2002; minor formatting and editing has been added. We would love to know who penned these words, if you recognize them, please use the contact form to reach out.