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Community Input Sought for Future of Musser Gap Property

by on January 11, 2019 4:00 PM

As Penn State and ClearWater Conservancy consider next steps for conserving land between Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township and Rothrock Forest at Musser Gap, local community members can take part in an online survey to offer their input.

The survey — which asks participants about their concerns and thoughts on recreational opportunities and possible amenities — can be found here. Answers are anonymous and the survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. It will close on Jan. 17.

“We’re very happy to be working with ClearWater to engage our local and campus community as we consider the passive use options for Musser Gap while protecting the overall environment, including the water supply,” David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business at Penn State, said in a news release.

Penn State President Eric Barron announced in December that the university would work with ClearWater to conserve the 365-acre, university owned tract referred to as the Musser Gap to Valleylands (MG2V). The property includes the Musser Gap Greenway recreational trail, developed earlier this decade by Penn State and ClearWater to connect Rothrock to the planned Whitehall Road Regional Park. The future site of the park, which recently began development, and the forest border the MG2V site.

Deb Nardone, executive director of ClearWater Conservancy, said that the survey is a first step in developing the priorities for the land.

"It’s very important for the community to engage in this process to help shape the future of the MG2V site for generations to come," Nardone said.

Information from survey responses will be used as part of the discussion during the first community forum for the project, which is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, 780 Waupelani Drive.

“Our vision for this area is to not only help protect the local water supply, plant and animal species, but also make it a place where people can enjoy nature, learn about the environment and be inspired,” Barron said in December.

The 365 acres to be conserved is are outlined in orange. See a larger version of this map here. Image courtesy Penn State.

A team of Penn State graduate and undergraduate students spent the fall semester studying the site as part of an upper-level landscape architecture course and another class is continuing that work in the spring, expanding the scope to work with ClearWater and others within and outside the university. Using data gathered in the fall and feedback this winter and spring, they will develop ideas for future use of the site focused on environmental and social benefits

"The survey information and the meeting results will help provide a foundational understanding of community values, interests and concerns to help inform the students’ idea generation,” said Eliza Pennypacker, professor and head of landscape architecture.

ClearWater has had ongoing efforts to conserve land in the area along the Tussey Ridge and Spring Creek watershed, including acquisition of the 423-acre Musser Gap and 280-acre Hale property, both of which were conveyed to Rothrock State Forest. The conservancy also completed the Slab Cabin Run Initiative in 2017, a major project to acquire conservation easements on the Meyer and Everhart farms in College and Harris townships, which also sit in a critical part of the Spring Creek watershed.

The 365-acre Penn State property to be conserved is part of a larger original parcel from Whitehall Road to south of Route 45 that was acquired by Penn State in 1999 from the Mellon Family Trust and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.acquired by the university.

Since then, in addition to developing the Musser Gap Greenway, the university has sold 59 acres near Whitehall Road to State College Borough Water Authority (SCBWA) for restricted conservation; and 100 acres to Ferguson Township and the Centre Region Council of Governments for development of Whitehall Road Regional Park.

After years of legal battles over use of the land, Penn State also completed the sale of 45 acres to developer Toll Brothers, which is now building the luxury student housing The Cottages near Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive. As a condition of the land sale, Toll Brothers is required provide necessary infrastructure for Whitehall Road Regional Park.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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