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Fund drive for Pa. environmental center extended

July 01, 1999|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A charter membership drive to build an environmental education center for Mercersburg area students has been extended to March 1, 2000, according to Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project officials.

Construction of the $200,000 Charles Brightbill Environmental Center is scheduled to begin this fall with the center opening next spring, according to Mike Barkdoll, secretary of the charitable foundation.

The 3,500-square-foot museum and education center will have a display hall, a classroom for environmental lab projects and a museum, according to Ty Snider, a member of the building committee.

The Tuscarora Education Wildlife Project works closely with the Tuscarora School District. The center will be on district land for which the foundation has signed a 99-year lease, Barkdoll said. The foundation has several acres between the James Buchanan High and Middle schools that serve as a nature area, he added.

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The foundation has many of its exhibits in a classroom at the high school, including more than 200 taxidermy specimens, a library of several hundred volumes and a large collection of minerals, skulls and nests.

"There's quite a bit that's not in there because there's no room for it," Snider said. The project recently received a mounted specimen of a stillborn black rhinoceros, he said.

"I doubt there's another one of those in Pennsylvania," Snider said.

Although some 18,000 people, mostly students, have been through the classroom museum since the foundation was formed in 1987, Snider said its use is limited. "With everything in the classroom, we can't even put a busload of kids through it," he said. "We'll be able to do so much more" with the new center.

The foundation also sponsors weeklong summer programs - this year's begin Monday - for elementary students who will take part in hands-on environmental projects. The following week, middle and high school students will do water analysis, animal identification and other projects.

The center will serve as a legacy for the late Charles Brightbill, whom Snyder described as "a diehard naturalist."

A former music teacher in the Tuscarora School District, Brightbill served as a naturalist at Cowan's Gap State Park during the summer. He was also active with the Audubon Society and Boy Scouts before his death a few years ago.

Brightbill served as the program's first curator until his death, Barkdoll said.

The foundation has raised about $175,000 for the building, enough to get the project underway, Barkdoll said. The foundation is offering different levels of charter memberships.

A $1,000 donation qualifies a donor for a Golden Eagle membership, $750 for Osprey, $500 for Red-Tailed Hawk, $250 for Peregrine Falcon and $100 for American Kestrel. Any donor of $500 or more gets a lifetime membership.

Annual individual and family memberships are also available. The donations are tax-deductible, Barkdoll said.

Members receive a newsletter, free access to programs and a discount on wildlife prints commissioned by the foundation. There are 125 copies of the 1999 print, a painting of a white-tailed deer by local artist Melissa Gayman Ball titled "Abandoned Too Soon."

Anyone wishing to make a donation can write to Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project, P.O. Box 97, Mercersburg, PA 17236.

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