Spring Creek Project Opens Fishing Options for Disabled Veterans
September 25, 2020 5:00 AM
by Centre County Gazette, G Kerry Webster
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For many, the great outdoors is the perfect medicine the doctor may not have ordered. But in the case of a 1,000-foot section of Spring Creek, the prescription came in the form of a dream.

And that dream was realized this week in College Township.

The late Dr. Gerry Clair, a former State College physician, was committed to making a stretch of stream accessible to veterans for fishing, and for that to happen, both water quality and fish habitat in the area needed improvement. Clair passed away in September 2019.

Clair served in the U.S. Navy, then the U.S. Air Force, from 1957-65. He was well aware of the therapeutic value of the fishing experience for those who suffer from physical or mental issues.

Thanks to a $17,500 grant from The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were able to work together to realize Clair’s vision and this week announced the end of the project, which set the dream in motion.

Veteran Jim Wilson, of Centre Hall, tries out a new fishing hole on Spring Creek in College Township, following a restoration project to improve accessibility and wildlife habitat. Photo provided

Restoration work included the stabilization of the creek bank to prevent bank erosion, which, in turn, improves aquatic habitat.

“We hope to see an increase in the multitude of macroinvertebrates and fish species,” said John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, in a press release announcing the project’s conclusion.

Because Spring Creek is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, “improvement of this section will represent a small contribution to the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay, which has deteriorated in recent years due to nitrogen and sediment loading.”

“The side benefit of using the stream to improve the mental well-being of individuals who suffer from injury or illness is an added benefit,” said Dawes.

Work continues at the site as USFWS has designed a trail and is laboring to install log cribbing structures to permit wheelchair access to the stream.

“The trail is a work in progress,” said Dave Putnam, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in State College.

“We work on it as time and funding permits.”

The dream of the late State College Dr. Gerald Clair was realized this week with the completion of a restoration project along Spring Creek, and several of his family members were on hand for the announcement. Clair’s inspiration was the impetus for the accessibility piece of the restoration project. Pictured is Clair’s widow, Susan, with their daughter Amy and three granddaughters. Photo provided

The site is accessible to utility terrain vehicles, also known as side-by-sides, which is how vets are transported to this section of the stream.

“In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation is proud to promote conservation, wildlife and accessibility for all persons,” said Russ Schleiden, chairman of the foundation, a conservation-focused organization headquartered in State College.

In October, the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation will break ground on the Julian Wetland — the first of two wetlands in Centre County — that will be enhanced with ADA-compliant features to make nature accessible to all.

Restoration work on the 1,000 foot section of Spring Creek in College Township was recently completed. Photo provided.

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