BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. — Several dozen people joined Washington Township officials Wednesday evening to dedicate a trail at Happel's Meadow Wetlands to a former committee member, who passed away on April 25, 2008, at the age of 62.
John F. Birely, of Blue Ridge Summit, was one of the original five members of the preservation committee, which oversees and offers recommendations to the township about its 80-plus acres of wetlands along Pa. 16.
Originally appointed to the advisory committee in March of 1981, Birely developed the master plan for the wetlands that the township still uses today, according to Washington Township manager Mike Christopher.
"He was instrumental in the management plan for the meadows," he said during the short dedication ceremony just before dusk.
Birely served on the board until stepping down in 1986. In 2007, he was reappointed and served again until his death, Christopher said.
"John was an environmentalist. He liked to preserve things," Christopher said. "Unfortunately, he was called to another place and we miss him."
Several people spoke up about Birely during the ceremony. Current committee member and biologist Doris Goldman said she brought a group of middle school students to the park over the summer and they really enjoyed the condition that it was in.
"Everyone was raving," Goldman said. "I hope the community appreciates what (John) did."
The John Birely Memorial Upland Trail, which has an "outer" loop and a "short" loop, is about a half-mile long, depending on which direction walkers wish to take, said Matt Watson, code enforcement and parks official for the township. The trail was installed by the Washington Township parks department, thanks to Watson, Bob Hargrove and Jerry Theriault.
"I know John would definitely be pleased," said Medie Birely, John's widow.
Blue Ridge Summit resident Bill Kaminski, a neighbor of the Birelys, said he rode with Medie to Wednesday's dedication ceremony and spotted an eagle by a nearby pond on their way.
"He helped me appreciate Blue Ridge Summit and what we have up here," he said.