- Andrea Murrell,
ClearWater Conservancy – Protecting and connecting the region’s woods, waterways, and wildlife
ClearWater Conservancy is a locally formed, nationally accredited land trust organization that has been protecting and restoring natural resources throughout central Pennsylvania since 1980. The organization was originally founded by a small group of citizens led by Jim McClure and Barbara Fisher who, with concerns about a potential threat to the region’s groundwater, successfully prevented the construction of a shopping mall where Tom Tudek Memorial Park is located today. Afterward the group formed ClearWater Conservancy to be better positioned to proactively address future challenges and threats to the region’s groundwater and other natural resources.
With support from the community and partnering organizations, ClearWater has permanently conserved and connected many ecologically significant landscapes and waterways throughout the Spring Creek and surrounding watersheds through ongoing land conservation, stream restoration, and community outreach efforts.
In 1986 the organization finalized its first conservation easement on the Rhoneymeade Farm, permanently removing development rights on the 186-acre property. In 1989 the organization joined the Land Trust Alliance and in 2012 earned national accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission.
Over 11,000 acres of land, an area nearly four times the size of State College Borough, have been conserved by ClearWater Conservancy or protected through partnerships involving the organization. Some of the more recent and widely known land conservation efforts include:
2001: Finalization of conservation easement on wetlands located at Millbrook Marsh
2004: Purchase of Musser Gap, 423-acre tract of land that is now part of Rothrock State Forest
2017: Permanent conservation of Meyer Farm, 300 acres of farmland and a portion of Slab Cabin Run
2021: Purchase of former Dry Hollow Hunt Club, adding 1,200 acres to Rothrock State Forest
ClearWater Conservancy owns and maintains the 39-acre Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor located in Port Matilda, PA that connects the Bald Eagle Ridge with the Scotia Barrens. The corridor includes important habitat for migrating birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians. The property is permanently protected with a conservation easement.
Stream Protection and Restoration
ClearWater Conservancy’s Riparian Conservation Program was established in 2004 with a goal to improve the health and resiliency of local streams through the planting and maintenance of streamside forests. Since that time the organization has restored or facilitated the restoration of 26 miles of stream through countless projects and partnerships as part of the program.
Additionally, ongoing stream protection and community outreach initiatives support the organization’s stream restoration efforts all throughout the year. For example, the Spring Creek Watershed Commission was formed in 1996, the first Annual Watershed Cleanup Day was held in 1997, and the Centre County PA Senior Environmental Corps became a formal committee of ClearWater in 2007. Each of these efforts is active and growing today.
In August 2022 ClearWater Conservancy purchased an 8.78 property in Houserville that includes 1,300 feet of restored streambank along Spring Creek in close proximity to downtown State College.
ClearWater’s ongoing land conservation and stream restoration efforts rely on collaboration with residents and community partners to succeed and reach its goals. Community volunteers have cleared more than 6 million pounds of trash of debris from the area through annual Watershed Cleanup Days, spent thousands of hours planting and maintaining thousands of trees and shrubs along stream sides, and regularly test 50 local streams to monitor the region’s water quality over time.
Throughout all outreach efforts, ClearWater strives to empower more people to access outdoor destinations and gain a better understanding and appreciation of the beauty, function, and significance of local ecosystems. Since 2017 ClearWater has been hosting free guided hikes and walks for people of all ages and fitness levels through its Centred Outdoors program. Through this program more than 4,000 outdoor adventures have been facilitated at destinations in and around the county between 2017 and 2022.
Volunteers clear trash and debris from a site near a stream during Watershed Cleanup Day (2022). Photo courtesy of Brandi Wright
As the Centre Region grows in population and development, so has the pace and scope of ClearWater’s goals and initiatives. The organization is guided by its strategic vision, the ClearWater Compass, which includes four Compass Points that define the organization’s long-term goals and direction:
Protect: Connect conserved lands and water resources. Inspire exploration and love of place by connecting people to the outdoors. Build a network of diverse people working together for permanent land and conservation of water resources.
Connect: Protect priority lands for healthy water, soil, woods, and wildlife as an effective, economical, and long-lasting tool to ensure our region’s resilience.
Restore: Restore and steward high priority water resources, streamside forests, and habitats for people and wildlife.
Steward: Provide opportunities for everyone to get involved while gaining a better understanding of how the health of our region’s natural resources connects and affects us all.
Over the past 42 years, ClearWater’s success in protecting and restoring important natural areas can be attributed to strong community support and thousands of hours contributed by volunteers. If you would like to make a positive impact on your local community through volunteer opportunities with ClearWater Conservancy, please contact their team to find the role best suited for you:
call 814-237-0400, or visit www.clearwaterconservancy.org for more information.
You can also learn more about ClearWater Conservancy by visiting www.clearwaterconservancy.org, review the ClearWater Compass, and review this
overview of recent efforts.
Andrea Murrell is ClearWater Conservancy’s strategic communications coordinator and long-time resident of Centre County. She is grateful to live within the Spring Creek Watershed and for opportunities to support its health and resilience for future generations.