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Wildlife Center Restoration Project Finally Begins

by and on July 25, 2019 3:00 PM

HUSTON TOWNSHIP — It’s finally dry enough to do some work with water in the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve.

On Monday, construction crews began a stream restoration project on the Bald Eagle Creek, kicking off the Wildlife For Everyone Foundation’s planned Wildlife Center project — about one year after the restoration work was supposed to begin.

Because of the high water levels caused by the record rainfall throughout the summer and fall of 2018, heavy construction equipment was unable to work in the area due to the excessive water and deep mud, thus forcing the year-long delay.

But, according to WFEF’s Barbara Schroeder, crews can now work in the area along old Route 220 South between Julian and Port Matilda.

“We’re very excited to finally get this project kicked off,” said Schroeder. “It’s been waiting a year, but now the conditions are favorable.”

According to Schroeder, the restoration’s goal is to remove heavy sediment from a 600-foot stretch of the Bald Eagle Creek and channel the water to create a deeper environment and provide cover for the fish habitat of the steam. Crews will also rectify bank erosion, making the areas on both sides of the stream much more stable.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s program, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, is funding the restoration effort. Schroeder said it should be finished by the end of this week.

“This long-awaited project will set the wheels in motion for the development of the Wildlife Center,” stated Susan Hawthorne, executive director of the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation. She said as the project moves forward, a 1-mile ADA-compliant walking trail will be constructed, as will observation and viewing areas. There will also be an accessible fishing platform and education pavilion.

“The accessibility that is built into the design of the Wildlife Center will provide all persons, regardless of physical limitation, the opportunity to experience the restoration benefits that being outdoors offers,” said Hawthorne, noting the accessible fishing platform is one feature of the model.

This is an artist’s rendering of the proposed boardwalk with safety bumpers which is part of a bigger plan to bring an all-accessible natural area to the Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve in Huston Township. Image provided

Schroeder said despite the moniker of Wildlife Center, the name encompasses an area, rather than just a building.

“This ‘center’ will include the observation decks and boardwalks, as well as the education pavilion and fishing platform,” she said. “It’s in a very beautiful area of the wetlands, and with the diversity of wildlife and plant species here, it makes for a perfect ‘center’ for nature activities.”

Bald Eagle Creek is stocked with trout and is a destination for anglers from across the country. In addition to the trout, the creek supports smallmouth bass, rock bass, white suckers, catfish and other fishable species.

Schroeder said work on the different aspects of the project will depend upon permitting, which she said has to be done through several agencies, including Huston Township, the Centre County commissioners, the local railroad and the Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission.

“We’ve also been made aware there may be Native American artifacts on the site, so we want to make sure we do everything to preserve the rich and important history of the area,” Schroeder said.

Fundraising efforts for the Wildlife Center continue. Those wanting to make a donation are encouraged to call (814) 238-8138 or visit www.wildlifeforeveryone.org.

Since Wildlife For Everyone Foundation was formed in 2004, millions of dollars has been raised to support projects including wildlife and wetland habitat improvements, creek and lake restorations and educational programs for students.

Construction crews began  a stream restoration project on the Bald Eagle Creek on July 22, kicking off the Wildlife For Everyone Foundation’s proposed Wildlife Center project. Photo provided.



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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