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DCNR chief takes a hike through township

October 18, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Michael DiBerardinis napped Wednesday on his way to some of the highest points in Washington Township, Pa., a place he called "one of the most important parts of the state."

The chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources already had hiked for two hours at an earlier stop on his two-day, three-county tour.

That didn't stop him from trekking around the outer limits of Happel's Meadow Wetlands Preserve, a conservation effort for which the DCNR recently provided $150,000.

DCNR has been a good steward of its lands; now it must partner with local agencies to preserve open space for communities, the agency's secretary said.

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"I think that's DCNR's new role in the state," DiBerardinis said. "I think conservation and public lands are rooted in American democracy."

He presented the Washington Township Supervisors with an oversized check for the Happel's Meadow grant. Then he handed another check - written out for $37,400 - to the Mont Alto Borough Council for rehabilitation of tennis courts and other facilities at that municipality's recreation area.

The ceremony took place at Pine Hill Regional Recreation Area, a Washington Township park partially funded by DCNR and not far from the wetlands.

DiBerardinis talked about cleaning up and bringing back life after the Industrial Revolution.

"This South Mountain and the ecosystems it protects and encompasses, the state forest that is here, the springs that are here, the heritage of this region is what these grants and this tour are about," he said.

"The majority of Franklin County actually gets its water off South Mountain," said Phil Tarquino, the county's planning director.

While praising the open space and preservation efforts so far, DiBerardinis encouraged local and county leaders to continue employing land management practices for sustainable growth.

Future plans for Happel's Meadow include walkways, an environmental center and "buying up or tying up the perimeter so bad things can't happen," Township Manager Mike Christopher said.

The $150,000 DCNR grant funded half of last week's purchase of 7.3 acres from a Mercersburg, Pa., developer who had submitted land development plans for the site. The acquisition off Pennersville Road increased Happel's Meadow to 84 acres, Christopher said.

"This takes 18 building lots off the market. More importantly, what it does for us, is stops a development from encroaching on wetlands near and dear to all our hearts," Supervisor Carroll Sturm said.

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