Press Release

September 27, 2017

Wildlife Center Kick-Off a Success

A beautiful day, great turnout of friends and informative and entertaining programs combined to make the Kick-off of the fundraising phase of the Wildlife Center, located on the Tom Ridge and Julian Wetlands just west of State College, a great success. Guests were invited to walk a portion of the future one-mile accessible trail where they were met by representatives from the PA Fish & Boat Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service, PA Game Commission and the State College Birding Club. They offered demonstrations and explanations on topics ranging from bird migration through the wetlands, water life found in Bald Eagle Creek, electrofishing and how the age of trees are determined by its rings.

Guests congregated under a tent that will occupy the future 40’ x 60’ educational pavilion that will offer a covered classroom for visiting classes and groups. Other features planned for the Wildlife Center include two wildlife viewing areas (one of them accessible), an accessible fishing area, and benches and interpretive signs that highlight native plants and animals. The goal of the Wildlife Center project is to create a world-class, fully accessible, outdoor learning space and nature observatory that offers everyone an opportunity to connect with nature. Upon completion, the Wildlife Center will serve as a recreational and educational hub, much like an outdoor museum for visitors. If fundraising objectives are met, groundbreaking for the Wildlife Center will occur in fall 2018 with a spring 2019 opening.

During the program, Bob Amelio, Program Coordinator of the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living and ACCESS consultant to the project, spoke about the value of accessibility for persons with physical challenges. Without the incorporation of thoughtful and proven measures, such as the type of material used on the ground, bumpers on the edges of the trail and attention to grade specifications, the restorative benefits of nature and spending time with family and friends in a beautiful spot like the Wildlife Center are off limits to individuals with physical limitations. He applauded the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation for making accessibility a priority in the development of this project. Other speakers included: Michael Pipe, Mark Higgins and Steve Dershem, Centre County Commissioners; Russ Schleiden, Chairman of the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation Board; Jerry Regan, president of the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation and Michael Schaul, president of the WHM Group, an environmental resources solution company, who gifted the property to the Wildlife Foundation in 2010.

The origins of the Wildlife Center project begin with the WHM Group. The company was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to construct a replacement wetland in response to environmental disruption caused by the creation of Interstate 99 almost two decades ago. The Bald Eagle Wetland Mitigation site was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and was selected based on the property’s ability to support wetlands.

Schaul, in his remarks, spoke about his company’s mission to be diligent to the science of Mother Nature, that is to return the land to its original state. Prior to farmland, the property was a natural wetland. Two-hundred years ago, the land was manipulated to divert its natural hydrology so that crops could be grown on the site. The WHM Group chose the location because of its existing water sources: mountain run-off feeds the Julian Wetlands side and Bald Eagle Creek saturation feeds the Tom Ridge Wetlands side. These naturally-occurring phenomena allowed the WHM Group to construct the wetlands without mechanics.

In 2010, the WHM Group donated more than 135 acres of land including 55 acres of reconstructed wetlands to the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation along with a $50,000 maintenance fund. Schaul cited a “good fit” with the Wildlife Foundation’s mission that teaches kids about conservation and what it means to be a good steward of wildlife and environment, as reason for its selection as caretaker of the wetlands.

Today, the Wetlands site is a glimpse of the past and a certain hope for the future, that the plants and animals that have not been seen here for a long time…eagles, rare birds, mink, native plants and the like, will remain in these wetlands.

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