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Township buys wetlands property

December 02, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Someday, people will walk with dry feet through Happel's Meadow to see the flora and fauna that live in the wetland. Maybe, they'll even spot a bobcat.

Washington Township officials, at a real estate closing Thursday, paid $160,000 for a run-down house and five acres of dry land abutting Happel's Meadow.

Pa. 16 dissects the wetland. About 47 acres lie on the north side and 23 on the south. The property closed on Thursday gives access to the south side, said Jerry Zeigler, township code enforcement officer. There is no public access yet to the north side, he said.

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Half the money to buy the property came from a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant. The township put up the other half from proceeds from the $800 per-unit recreation fee it charges developers.

The township budgeted $70,000 in recreation fees next year.

The old house on the property likely will be torn down, Zeigler said.

A nature center will take its place. Plans also call for parking areas for vehicles and school buses, and a boardwalk for access into the wetlands.

Those improvements will come as money for them is donated, Zeigler said. The first step was acquiring the land.

Charles III, Amelia and Letitia Gardner donated the wetlands to the township in 1990. They are to be maintained as a perpetual natural area for scientific, educational and aesthetic purposes.

Happel's Meadow was, until the early 1940s, a successful truck garden. The Happel family bought the property in 1902. In 1906, two Happel brothers, Albert and John, began to farm the land after draining the swamp and clearing the brush.

The brothers grew a variety of vegetables, specializing in celery.

Happel's Meadow is the headwaters to Red Run Stream.

In 1943, Pa. 16 cut through the Happels' land and ruined their farming operation.

The land eventually returned to its natural state over the decades.

Doris Goldman of Waynesboro holds a Ph.D in biology. She volunteered to inventory the plant and animal life in the Meadow. Her on-site research identified nearly 200 plant species, including 88 of which are on the Pennsylvania endangered list.

Happel's Meadow is also home to deer, muskrat, voles, mice, mink, frogs, salamanders, turtles and bobcats, according to Goldman's research.

The township bought the house and five acres from Curtis Myers of Greencastle, Pa. Myers, having won a seat in the November election, will be sworn in as an Antrim Township Supervisor in January.

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