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Wildlife for Everyone Breaks Ground on Accessible Wetlands Project

by on October 19, 2020 3:08 PM

The Wildlife for Everyone Foundation on Saturday broke ground on the Soaring Eagle Wetlands project designed to make nature accessible for all individuals regardless of physical limitation.

The groundbreaking sets in motion a two-phase project adding accessibility features to the wetlands preserve along South Eagle Valley Road between Julian and Martha Furnace.

“Natural areas provide a serene space to detach from emotionally-charged lives and focus on the beauty of nature,” Russ Schleiden, chairman of the WFEF, said in a statement. “The addition of accessibility features will allow persons with physical limitation the opportunity to engage in passive recreational activities, connect with nature and experience the restorative benefits it offers.” 

The first phase of construction will allow exploration of the more remote wetland located on the west side of old route 220.

Formerly known as the Julian Wetland, the newly named Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Viewing Area pays tribute to the eponymous long-time foundation supporters and will permit access to a wetland that showcases over 190 species of resident and migratory birds. 

“The Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Viewing Area provides important stopover habitat and is a great place for birders to hear and see some of the uncommon birds that move through Pennsylvania,” said Margaret Brittingham, a WFEF board member, ornithologist and professor of wildlife resources at Penn State.

The projected cost for the first phase is $169,000 and will include accessible blinds, linear trails and ADA-compliant parking.

Construction began on Monday and completion is expected in time for spring migration.

A half-mile down the road from the Dreibelbis viewing area, construction on the Soaring Eagle Wetland project will follow with the installation of an accessible trail and fishing platform over Bald Eagle Creek, ADA-compliant observation blinds, pavilion, restroom, parking lot and educational signage.

The wetland will be fully accessible from the parking lot to Bald Eagle Creek.

The projected cost of the Soaring Eagle Wetland is approximately $1.2 million. The Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded $500,000 in grants for the project, with rest to be funded by private contributions. Bid requests will be publicized in early 2021 and construction is expected to begin in the spring.

Anyone interested in making a contribution can call (814) 238-8138 or visit

Pictured: The Wildlife for Everyone Foundation broke ground on the Soaring Eagle Wetland, one of the Foundation's two Centre County wetlands to be designed with ADA-compliant features. Attendees watched major supporters Nancy and Galen Dreibelbis, John and Susan Blaschak, Janet Nyce and Russ and Jeannie Schleiden ceremoniously initiate development of the fully accessible wetlands. Construction on the Galen & Nancy Dreibelbis Viewing Area located up the road from Soaring Eagle Wetland began on Monday, October 19.

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