Quiet Intervals: The Koons Trail
Jun 06, 2019 11:00AM
By Emma Eldridge
Goldenrod emerges in late summer
By Erica L. Shames
The mile-long Koons Trail, located along Buffalo Creek in Mifflinburg, is part of a 30.5-acre conservation easement held by the Merrill Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy. It provides a relaxing place to meander amid nature.
The Koons Trail
The Koons Trail, on North 4th Street, in Mifflinburg, at the Hassenplug Covered Bridge, is named for Mary E. Koons, owner and operator of the former Mary Koons Shop in Mifflinburg. In 1992, Koons donated the permanent conservation easement to land she owned east and west of the covered bridge.
Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and a land trust, such as the Merrill Linn Conservancy (or other qualified organization), in which the land owner places restrictions on the use of her property to protect the natural values of the land.
“Mary wanted a trail on the property for the public to enjoy,” said Geoff Godenow, coordinator, Merrill Linn Conservancy. “She wanted this to be preserved as open space for townsfolk and visitors, and that is what this easement does.” The easement prohibits development, such as housing, on the site.
That was then
Designed by former Mifflinburg Middle School science teacher Joe Southerton, and established with the help of Joe’s students, the trail was closed a few years ago due to the death of ash trees that dominated the canopy at Koons Trail.
“The trail suffered a lot due to the die-off and subsequent removal of dead trees to assure public safety,” Goodenow said. “The trail is open again, but it will take some time for it to return to its former glory.”
Under new ownership of Ryan and Samantha Sabo, the trail network has been expanded into a wildflower meadow on acreage south of Buffalo Creek and the original trail, according to Goodenow.
With help from governmental agencies, former agricultural fields north of the house have been restored to natural floodplain habitat. Drain tiles were plugged or removed and shallow depressions created to hold water to enhance habitat for wetland plants and animals. A small hill created along the east side of 4th Street provides a public viewing platform.
What you’ll see
Numbered plaques along the trail correspond to highlights in trail brochure, designed and written by Southerton and his students. A warning: poison ivy is plentiful on the trail.
West of the Hassenplug Covered Bridge, hikers will see an old Shagbark hickory tree surrounded by spring wildflowers, including May apple, dogtooth violet and spring beauty.
The Hassenplug Bridge crosses Buffalo Creek, which empties into the Susquehanna River at Lewisburg. Built in 1825 and rebuilt in 1925, the bridge is an example of a Burr truss construction style.
The purple spike of skunk cabbage is visible from the boardwalk at this junction. Along the way hikers will also see golden rod, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and wildflowers.
This boardwalk traverses a vernal pond that houses tiny aquatic creatures including fairy shrimp. Many resident and migrant birds populate the trail, including the American woodcock, known for its dramatic early evening and morning courtship flights. You might also see: Great Blue Herons, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpeckers and House Wrens.
More information about this and other trails maintained by the Linn Conservancy is at LinnConservancy.org.