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School uses state grant to dredge pond

August 17, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

A small pond that was built in 1896 by students at the then-new Scotland School for Veterans Children and has served the school and neighboring village of Scotland as a popular swimming, ice skating and fishing spot has become unusable due to neglect and a buildup of silt.

Scott M. Henne, assistant superintendent at the school, said Friday the school has secured a $100,000 state grant to dredge the pond and pay for an engineering study of the dam pending its replacement.

Work on the dredging project has already begun, Henne said. The silt is being pumped into a holding area that was dug several hundreds yards from the pond.


Silt will be filtered and the resulting clean water will be channeled back into the Conococheague Creek.

When the pond was built the creek was dammed up and water from it was diverted through a newly dug channel to the pond. When the pond was full the water ran over the dam and into another channel, also dug for that purpose, that returned it to the creek further downstream.

"For years the pond was one of the most scenic spots on campus," Henne said. "It provided a source of ice in the winter which was essential for the operation of the campus year-round."

In 1897, nearly 100 tons of ice was cut from the pond and stored for year-round use by the school, he said.

The pond has also provided the students and Scotland residents with a quiet place to fish, canoe, picnic, swim and ice skate, he said.

"Migratory waterfowl including Canada geese and black, mallard and canvasback ducks found a habitat there," he said.

Recent mild winters have ended the ice skating. The geese, which no longer migrate, have become a nuisance and Henne wants the state to allow controlled hunting to diminish the population.

The pond when new was 10 feet deep in places. Today, because of the silt buildup, it's less than 2 feet deep, he said.

The pond has not been dredged in more than 25 years, he said.

Henne estimates that up to 8 feet of silt has to be removed to make the pond clean and viable again for waterfowl, fish and human use.

Erosion and roots from two huge trees near the dam have caused leaks in the spillway. The trees have been removed, Henne said.

The pond will be restocked with trout next spring.

A second grant will be sought to replace the dam, Henne said.

The school for orphans of Civil War veterans in Pennsylvania was the brainchild of Andrew Gregg Curtin, governor of the commonwealth in 1866. That year the state Legislature appropriated money to house up to 15,000 children in 44 orphanages across the state, according to a history of the school.

In 1895, the state bought the 100-acre property in Scotland and built what was then called the Pennsylvania Orphans Industrial School. Nearly 240 orphans moved into the school that year, the history said.

Since then more than 10,000 children have passed through the school. Enrollment today is 360 resident students in grades 3-12. The school has 42 teachers.

An average graduating class has from 30 to 35 students. About 75 percent go on to college, Henne said.

"The rest go into the military," he said.

All students must join the school's junior ROTC program as freshmen, Henne said.

To be eligible for enrollment in the state-run school, students must have parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or legal guardians who have been honorably discharged from the military, Henne said.

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