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Accessible Trail Eyed for Tom Ridge Wetlands

by and on July 15, 2017 5:00 AM

Jerry Regan has already helped to build one accessible trail in Pennsylvania, and now he hopes to organize another at the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve at Bald Eagle.

Regan was part of the construction of the accessible trail at Hawk Mountain in Kempton in 2015, when he was president of the Sanctuary Association there. The trail has less than an 8 percent grade and can be traversed by wheelchairs. There also are benches every 100 feet for people to stop and rest on their trek up to a lookout and education center.

“When we built that, I think it really changed our thinking,” Regan said. He described it as a paradigm shift for himself personally and said he received extremely positive feedback from people who previously had been largely cut off from enjoying nature.

That trail has helped an array of people with physical challenges to reconnect with nature, be they children with disabilities, those using wheelchairs or elderly people with bad hips who thought they would never be able to hike again, he said.

In December, Regan became the new president of the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation, and he and his staff are eyeing a similar setup for the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands at Bald Eagle. They’re looking to raise $1 million over the next year to install a raised trail built using the latest ADA guidelines, and also will improve conservation efforts there.

Later this year, WFE will kick off its capital campaign and look to form partnerships with public and private entities and individuals.

The project will require more than just the costs for construction. Regan said they will be looking to create a $200,000 endowment for ongoing maintenance for trail upkeep, to keep it looking good for decades to come and aid in habitat preservation and management of invasive species.

Starting in 2002, WFE and the WHM Group in State College began work on the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands, located on 135 acres near Route 220, to help offset environmental disruption from the construction of Interstate 99. WFE now manages the wetlands.

WFE has contributed to many other local projects related to the conservation of habitats and their wildlife, as well as connecting visitors to nature through 24 projects spanning 13 years.

A big program for the foundation is Seedlings for Schools. Regan said the foundation is very actively raising money across the state for the program to give children an opportunity to get their hands dirty planting seedlings while learning from the corresponding curriculum. Just last year, the foundation helped to provide 195,225 seedlings for students in 966 schools in the state.

In Centre County, a $148,404 grant from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection went toward the ongoing fish habitat restoration in Halfmoon Creek, which is a tributary to Spruce Creek and the Little Juniata River. Its headwaters come from Bald Eagle Mountain.

In 2007, Sam’s Club and Walmart contributed to repairs to the Scotia rifle range.

WFE partnered with the Penns Valley Conservation Association and other national and state organizations to improve Penns Creek through the construction of a 600-foot mud still and two log vanes in Gregg Township.

WFE was also one of the partners in the Save Colyer Lake effort after it was ordered that the body of water had to be drained after a 2012 inspection. The lake reopened for use in 2016.

WFE is always looking for volunteers. For more information, visit

For those looking to have some fun while donating to conservation, a Tee Off for Wildlife golf tournament is slated for Friday, Oct. 6, at The Links at Gettysburg. On Monday, Sept. 11, WFE will host a fly-fishing tournament at HomeWaters on Spruce Creek, with some proceeds to also benefit Wounded Warriors.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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