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Local
Area dog park dedicated

A project that will benefit borough residents and their canine companions that has long been discussed by officials in Huntingdon Borough is now a reality

Huntingdon Borough officials along with members of the Huntingdon Borough Parks and Recreation Commission were on hand for the official ribbon cutting and dedication of the Portstown Dog Park Thursday afternoon.

The dog park, which is comprised of two areas for smaller dogs and larger dogs to run and play, three benches in each area and two stations for owners to clean up after their canine companions, is located off of Ice Plant Road near Laney’s Feed Mill.

Though prior to the end of 2017, members of Huntingdon Borough Council did discuss the idea of a dog park, thanks to the aid of the Huntingdon Borough Parks and Recreation Commission, a five-member commission comprised of members of the borough, the concept of a dog park became more of a reality.

Though many were wondering where the money would come from to construct the dog park, thanks to the Hughes family, the park is now a reality.

Robert Jackson Jr., Huntingdon Borough Council member and chair of the borough’s parks and recreation committee, thanked the Hughes family, who were in attendance at the dedication Thursday.

“We want to thank from the bottom of our hearts the generous donation the Hughes family made in memory of their son, Patrick,” said Jackson. “It was a great gesture, and it’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do without them.”

Jackson also took the time to thank the Huntingdon Borough maintenance department for its work with the installation of the dog park.

“They spent many, many hours here between prioritized jobs and put this thing together,” he said. “They did a fine job, but I want to make sure they’re recognized for all of the great work they did to save money for the overall project costs.”

He also took the time to thank other officials from Huntingdon Borough who aided in bringing the dog park to reality

“Our borough manager Dan Varner and assistant borough manager Chris Stevens, they were always here to troubleshoot and ordering things, making everything flow in a timely manner so we could get this done in a timely manner,” said Jackson.

Varner said the park has been open to the public for three weeks, and those who use it, human and canine alike, are enjoying it.

“Our maintenance guys come here every morning and there have been people using it,” he said.

Stevens added that solar lights will be at the park next week, and a parking lot for the park will be completed soon after another major project is completed in the borough.

Additionally, Jackson said with the guidance of the Huntingdon Borough Parks and Recreation Commission, their support, guidance and hard work, as well as the parks and recreation committee.

“It feels wonderful to say that it’s dedicated and open,” said Jackson. “It’s not often the weather brings sunshine around here, this dog park will bring countless people sunshine for years to come.”


Local
Watershed specialist presents river ecology

For the fourth week of Huntingdon Landmarks Inc.’s summer walking tour series Thursday, Huntingdon County Conservation District’s watershed specialist Logan Stenger gave a presentation on the ecology of the Juniata River.

He shared the way the state’s plant life and waterways have evolved since Pennsylvania was first settled as a vast forest.

When Europeans settled Pennsylvania they not only deforested the area to build homes and plant crops, but they brought with them various diseases which took a toll on the area’s tree population.

American chestnut trees were the most prevalent and made up about one out of four trees.

The Europeans brought with them the Chinese chestnut blight, which the American trees could not keep up with, and it, “totally changed the ecology of Pennsylvania,” said Stenger.

Specifically, the waterways were lined with American and slippery elm trees, which again were no match for the Dutch elm disease.

People began clearing paths through the woods to the river so that they would have access to the water on their new property. This is still seen today, as people, “like to have clear, open sight-lines to the river.”

However, the practice of removing streamside trees and vegetation is the cause of the number one pollutant to Pennsylvania waterways—sediment.

Sediment is the amount of dirt in the water and is one of the factors that determines water quality, as well as pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature and hardness of the water.

Everything that enters the waterway affects the water downstream of it.

Huntingdon County is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, meaning that all the rain that falls here will eventually end up there.

The Juniata River is the largest tributary to the Susquehanna River, which flows directly into the Chesapeake Bay.

At 104 miles long, the Juniata River begins in Alexandria, where the Frankstown and Little Juniata branches come together, and eventually flows into the Susquehanna at Duncannon.

Western Pennsylvania is in the Ohio River watershed, and Eastern Pennsylvania water flows into the Delaware River.

These watersheds have different features which determine the life they can support.

As the native trees near the rivers have changed since Pennsylvania was settled, so have the fish species.

For example, migratory fish in the Susquehanna River watershed cannot move from saltwater to freshwater to spawn, because many do not make it back upstream over the fish ladders at all the dams that have been built.

The Delaware River does not have any dams, meaning that migratory fish in that watershed still have the luxury to swim freely.

Migratory fish, such as shad, striped bass, sturgeon and freshwater eels used to dominate the local waterways.

The freshwater eels have recently been reintroduced to help sustain the freshwater mussel population, though the eels themselves would have to travel to saltwater to spawn.

Aside from dam construction, overfishing also had an impact on the populations of shad and also eels, which were often sold to New York City restaurants as a delicacy.

Though such reintroduction efforts would create a river more similar to how it once was, some things will never be as they were.

For example, even smallmouth bass, which attract people specifically to this area for fishing, were brought here from the Ohio River Watershed, meaning that they are not native to the watershed.

The temperature of the water also plays a large role on the life it can sustain.

Small streams that begin in the mountains are colder than the wide rivers which open up and are warmed by the air.

Even in these larger rivers there are deep pockets of colder water, and different species of fish prefer to live in different temperatures of water.

Brook and lake trout, the only two trout species native to this area, are among those which prefer cold water.

Overall water quality has a large impact on the species that live there, and this can be easily studied by observing the macro-invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans and mollusks.

Fish are able to leave water that is not suitable to their needs, but these creatures cannot as easily move. Many of them live at the bottom of the river, and, “may stay within one square meter for months at a time,” said Stenger.

He explained that a strong indicator of stream health is an abundant and diverse population of macro-invertebrates.

Certain species are more tolerant of pollutants than others, and a scarcity of those that are more sensitive can show that there might be something off-balance about the water’s quality.

Stenger shared that he believes the most effective way to ensure stream health is through education.

Substances such as salt, herbicides and medicines can negatively impact the waterways, and installation of rain gardens and rain barrels can help reduce the amount of sediment in the water.

Olivia can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.


Photo by ADAM WATSON  

Members of Newton-Wayne EMS team 2 took first place in the six-man stokes carry with a time of 28 seconds during Emergency Medical Services (EMS) games Thursday night at the 73rd Annual Huntingdon County Firemen’s Convention in Six Mile Run. Smithfield Team 1 and Huntingdon came in second and third, respectively. Newton-Wayne Team 2 took first place in the Load-n-Go competition and Bedpan Race. Festivities continue with firefighting games in Six Mile Run tonight.


Local
Reycling event set for Saturday

The second electronics recycling date is set for the county.

It will be held at the Huntingdon County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, July 13.

At the first recycling event held in May, Huntingdon County Recycling Coordinator Lou Ann Shontz said 310 cars came through and 43,875 pounds of electronics recycling were collected.

Shontz said she’s thankful for the support of the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association, also known as the fair board, for allowing the county to host this event at the fairgrounds.

“I know that Danny Hawn (fairgrounds manager) has been very helpful, and the fair board has been so good to us about letting us hold these events there,” she said. “It’s just been a great working relationship.”

She’s also thankful for the support of the Huntingdon County Commissioners, who helped obtain a sponsorship for the event from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP)

“If it wouldn’t have been for them and CCAP, we may not be having these events,” said Shontz. “It’s hard to get a sponsorship, so with the commissioners working with CCAP and being persistent to get this sponsorship, it has gone really well.”

She’s also thankful for those who are doing their due diligence at these events by bringing their electronics to be recycled.

“The more we recycle, the more it shows the company sponsoring us how much we need it in the county,” said Shontz.

The county will team up with e-Loop of State College for this event and two other events, Saturday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 9.

Shontz reviewed what items will be accepted.

“You can bring TVs of any shape or size,” she said. “People can also bring computers and computer peripherals like monitors, keyboards, mice, speakers and all other external devices like scanners, wireless routers and printers. You can also bring old laptops and tablets. These are the ones that we’ll take for free.”

There’s also a small free for hard drive data destruction.

Other items will also be taken for a small fee per pound.

“That includes DVD, VCR and Blu-ray players as well as digital cameras, electronic cables, old phones, video games, video game consoles and power supply backups,” said Shontz.

Those dropping off electronics are encouraged to use the race track entrance to the fairgrounds, as signs will direct people to the correct place.

“There will be signs out there, and there will also be people directing traffic,” said Shontz.

Additionally, this event is for residential electronics recycling only.

Anyone who needs information about the electronics recycling events, or recycling in general in Huntingdon County, can call Shontz at 643-3091, ext. 221.


Local
Residents work to save park

Several Walker Township residents met Thursday at the Woodcock Valley Community Park to talk about options for keeping the township from building a municipal maintenance shed on park grounds.

For the past several months, the township has been searching for a place to build a municipal maintenance shed, for storing the municipal vehicles and salt for spreading on roads during winter. The proposed shed will also include a new municipal office. After much discussion, the township currently plans to perform a “land swap,” adding township land onto the north end of the park and taking land from the southern end to use for the municipal building.

The land swap had been awaiting approval from the state Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, but it was just recently approved, according to Dale Myers, part of the township municipal authority.

“The land swap was approved a couple days ago,” Myers said.

Edna Querry, one of the concerned residents, said she had just been in contact with DCNR and had not heard it had been officially approved. Chris Linn, another resident, said he had been in contact with DCNR last week, but had not heard of a timeline for approval, nor had he asked.

Querry also said she spoke with Steve Parks, who originally created the master plan for the park. She said he told her of a similar situation that had taken place in Altoona where the local government had tried to get land from a park and they had also had to receive approval from the attorney general’s office, so approval from DCNR may not be all that is required.

Tracy Gibson, another resident, said she is planning to send a letter to the attorney general’s office with a packet of information about the situation, hoping for assistance.

Linn said they’d also reached out to state Rep. Rich Irvin and are considering reaching out to other members of the legislature. He said, at the end of the day, if this plan goes through, people are going to see that part of the park land they used to have would now be used for a municipal maintenance shed.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent (the supervisors) from taking any of the park land,” Querry said. “They said they needed options and didn’t have options. We went out and got them options … but for whatever reason, every option has fallen (through) except for this, which does not even make sense. If you have kids, you do not want to put kids by a maintenance shed with chemicals.”

The township currently has two acres of land on the northern end of the park dedicated to municipal expansion. The acres border Ward Street, covering roughly two acres along the road and roughly an acre deep into the park. The land swap would give the township another three acres, but the supervisors haven’t specified where the land would be exactly.

Julie Johns, secretary for the township, stressed Thursday morning that official plans for the municipal maintenance shed have not been determined, and just how much and where land might be taken has not yet been determined. She said they would need to bring in an engineer to make such determinations, which they had been waiting on until DCNR approved the swap.

Linn, Querry and Gibson, along with other residents, tried to measure out how much land five acres would be. Querry said it is hard to understand how much land it is until it is seen mapped out. After some calculations, they decided five acres would be approximately the northern loop of the path, stretching from the unmowed portion by the Methodist Church to the gazebo, and stretching from Ward Street to the wooded section at the back of the park. They said it would not be exact but gives residents an idea of the amount of land needed.

“We want to take a picture and put a full-page advertisement in The Daily News and show people what they’ll be looking at (if the plan goes through),” Querry said.

Querry, Linn and Gibson said they will continue to work to protect their park. They said they’ll be in contact with Julie Johns and with DCNR before the township meeting Tuesday. If it comes to it, they said, they may consider legal options.

The township meeting will take place at the municipal building at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16.

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
Gov. vetoes bill over safety concerns

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill designed to exempt milk truck haulers from weather-related travel bans. He cited safety concerns as his primary reason.

“After careful consideration, I must veto this legislation due to very serious public safety concerns,” Wolf wrote in the veto.

The bill would exempt milk truck haulers from winter weather bans. Five bans of commercial vehicles on state highways occurred over the beginning of 2019.

Sen. Judy Ward, who proposed a similar bill in the Senate, expressed disappointment over Gov. Wolf’s decision.

“At a time when our dairy industry is already facing serious challenges, it is disappointing that Gov. Wolf has made a choice that makes it even harder on the industry to get their products to market,” Ward said in a press release.

Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair) joined her.

“Cows don’t stop producing milk when it snows,” he said in a press release. “By prohibiting the dairy industry from transporting its products, the governor is essentially telling farmers to pour profits down the drain,” Gregory said. “We should be able to trust professional haulers to evaluate the conditions and transport this perishable product who possible.”

Ward agreed that haulers should have the choice to make their runs.

“First of all, these milk haulers should have the good judgment to know when is the best time to begin their runs,” she told The Daily News. “They don’t want an accident with their equipment. Secondly, the milk haulers are professional drivers who are accustomed to getting into farms on narrow or challenging roads. They have chains for the wheels on their trucks which will make it even more safe. … Since there won’t be any other vehicles on the highways, it will be safe for the milk haulers to make their pickups.”

Gov. Wolf questioned such an argument in his veto.

“A declaration of disaster emergency carries the gravest considerations insofar as the traveling public is concerned,” he said. He added, “Typically, the bans are short in duration; however, they may be extended due to vehicle accidents or stranded motorists due to hazardous conditions on the highways. For example, on November 15, 2018, a severe winter weather event occurred in this Commonwealth. Interstates 83, 81, 80 and 78 were closed for up to 15 hours while commercial vehicles were removed from the snow and ice that had built up around the stopped vehicles. Commercial vehicle bans were then initiated for the next five storms spanning from January to March 2019. With the bans in place, there were no significant closures on the interstate highways in this Commonwealth.”

Erin Waters-Trasatt, press secretary for PennDOT, also added that only interstates and major routes are restricted during weather emergencies.

“Other roadways are available for travel, and speeds are typically lower on those roadways and they have more access points to keep traffic moving,” she told The Daily News.

Ward considered other roadways potentially more dangerous.

“Putting (haulers) on back roads that aren’t plowed or treated will make it more dangerous,” she said.

Now that the bill has been vetoed, Ward said lawmakers are considering their options.

“I had the same bill (Senate Bill 588) that we passed in the Senate,” she said. “That bill sits in the House (of Representatives). We have the summer to evaluate what direction we want to take with this issue and if there is any compromise to be made.”

The Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives will reconvene in September.

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.