Linked-Land Expands Our Shared Outdoors at Shikellamy State ParkMar 14, 2017 08:09PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
By Lisa Z. Leighton
Over the past two years, a Union County-based conservation organization has worked to protect and preserve 36-acres of valuable land. The end result benefits the many Pennsylvanians who enjoy spending time outdoors.
The Shikellamy Bluffs, Union County, was identified as a top ecological conservation priority as early as 1993 in Union County’s Natural Area Inventory Report, according to Shawn McLaughlin, Union County Planning and Economic Development Director. Adjacent to the Shikellamy State Park overlook, the bluffs offer quality views of the confluence of the Susquehanna River.
In 2015 land that included the bluffs was acquired from the McGinnis family as part of the Merrill W. Linn Conservancy’s Linking Landscapes Initiative, which creates connections between protected open spaces for the well-being of wildlife and to protect and maintain high-quality water resources.
Doubles in size
In addition to the 36-acre McGinnis site, the Bureau of State Parks also recently acquired the adjacent 82-acre Rozykie property.
McLaughlin says the two purchases have more than doubled the size of the overlook and “the last remaining undeveloped portions of the bluff have been conserved in perpetuity for all Pennsylvanians to enjoy.”
Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Cindy Adams Dunn notes the significance of the purchase.
“These properties add significantly to the Shikellamy Bluff,” she said. “When a park visitor gazes at the confluence of the West Branch and main stem of the Susquehanna, they can easily imagine the view that our Native Americans saw through the ages.
“I have paddled to Shikellamy State Park from both the West Branch and main stem as the culmination of week-long Susquehanna Sojourns,” she added. “The experience of paddling to the confluence is very moving.”
Public access and enjoymentVisitors to the bluffs can access and utilize the additional land for birdwatching—ravens, great horned owls, three types of woodpeckers, wood thrush and titmice have all been heard on the sites. The site also is ideal for hiking.
The bluffs is an area of multi-tiered native forests with a canopy of red and chestnut oak, ash, American basswood, red, sugar and striped maple, black birch, and Virginia pine. It is a popular habitat for white-tailed deer, turkey, and birds, including the Pennsylvania-endangered peregrine falcon which has nested there five times within the past decade. The bluffs also are home to two plant species of concern, the jeweled shooting-star and golden corydalis.
“Visitors can access the new sites through the current overlook,” notes Shikellamy State Park manager John Clifford. “It will primarily be used for passive recreation—our current trail system goes right up to the edge of the property.”
Plans for additional trails
“The next step,” according to DCNR press secretary Terry Brady, “is to develop a draft plan for these two new areas and then float those ideas out for public comment. Then these areas and their permitted uses will be included within the parks management plan.”
Complicated and multi-layered
The process undertaken by the Linn Conservancy was complex, multi-layered and at times painstaking, according to those who took part. The collaborative effort involved real estate appraisals, deed research and environmental assessments.
“We are proud and honored to have partnered with our county, our state and our other partners in the region to accomplish this major achievement,” says Susan Warner-Mills, president of the Linn Conservancy board.
A sales agreement for the 36-acre parcel was negotiated in July 2014. The conservancy worked with many partners to obtain the funding necessary to acquire the land. In the fall of 2015, contributions from private citizens, foundations and Union County were leveraged to secure a loan from Mifflinburg Bank & Trust, and in the spring of 2016 grant funding from the Commonwealth Finance Authority within the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and DCNR were secured to repay the loan and secure ownership of the property.
Renamed Kury Point
On September 23, Secretary Adams-Dunn announced the point and observation area on the Susquehanna River at Shikellamy State Park in Northumberland County were renamed Kury Point to honor legislator Franklin Kury.
“Kury authored the section of Pennsylvania’s Constitution popularly known as the Environmental Rights Amendment,” says Brady. “The secretary pointed to Shikellamy as embodying all that Kury saw as a public right: clean water; easy public access to it; and amid a setting that protects and encourages public respect for it.”
The Linn Conservancy will host a special celebration this spring. Details will be forthcoming and will be available at its website www.LinnConservancy.org.
For information about the Shikellamy State Park, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/shikellamy/.
Lisa Z. Leighton is a freelance writer, marketing professional and outdoor enthusiast.