Preserve in Wyoming County to become county's first state park
Ellen Ferretti asked the crowd at Howland Preserve in Wyoming County to be quiet for just a second.
“And listen and look around at the absolute stunning beauty that we are surrounded by right now," she said.
Ferretti is the executive director of the North Branch Land Trust. On Thursday, she stood under a towering old tree, the Susquehanna River behind her, looping around the Howland Preserve. She was joined by community members and local lawmakers at the 669-acre preserve, north of Tunkhannock, to celebrate its new designation, Wyoming County’s first state park.
The preserve will be renamed to Vosburg Neck, honoring the river’s meander and Abraham Vosburg, who was given the land in the 1700s for his service in the Revolutionary War.
“This land, these waters are in excellent hands with the Bureau of State Parks," said Ferretti.
On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf’s office announced the creation of three new state parks. The funding for the parks was included in the 2022-23 budget.
Howland Preserve is owned by the North Branch Land Trust with support and assistance from the nonprofit Friends of Howland Preserve. Ernest Howland’s family purchased the land in 1941. In his will, he donated it to the trust in 2006.
The preserve has hiking and biking trails and a boat launch. With the state taking over, the trail system and access to the river will be expanded. Bathroom facilities, which the preserve currently does not have, will also be added.
Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry is a lifelong county resident. He said with the new state park, new people will get to experience the beauty he sees everyday.
“It'll put it on state maps ... and tourism and it will just add to everything else that we have to offer already," he said.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn kayaked down the Susquehanna River and into the park Thursday with a small group of paddlers that included Ferretti.
“Coming into the Vosburg Neck from Mehoopany is a spiritual experience," said Dunn. "It is an amazing place.”
A new state park doesn’t happen without advocates, she said.
One of those advocates is state Sen. Lisa Baker. She has been pushing for the Howland Preserve to be a state park since 2016. DCNR even did a feasibility study but it came down to lack of funds, says Dunn.
“Joining the state park realm of natural jewels, as we all know raises recognition and reputation for our community," Baker said. "This gives us a benefit for what state parks mean to a community, to tourism, to economic development.”
At the preserve, Pennsylvania Director of State Parks John Hallas told a story about a gathering in 1921 of representatives from state parks across the country. He said they argued over what constitutes a state park. He said during that gathering one early park promoter and planner said: “I’ll know it when I see it.”
“I couldn't help but think about Vosburg Neck … you realize when you're on this property and you see it, it certainly is worthy of being a state park, in our protection, stewardship," he said. "'I'll know when I see it' and when I came here, I knew that this was going to be a great state park."
Vosburg Neck is set to open as a state park by 2026.