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More land preserved in Lackawanna County

Trail through a scrub oak forest in late fall at the Eales Preserve on Moosic Mountain in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.
Holcy/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Trail through a scrub oak forest in late fall at the Eales Preserve on Moosic Mountain in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

Some years ago, Bernie McGurl came across a koan. It’s a zen buddhist statement meant to provoke thought and contemplation.

"It was just a simple phrase, it said ‘to save the river, save the mountain’," said McGurl, executive director of the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA).

The Lackawanna Valley Conservancy (LVC) acquired 262 acres of land on Moosic Mountain. The land trust, part of the LRCA is now managing two separate parcels: Grassy Island Creek Preserve and Sterry Creek Preserve, both in Jessup. The land was owned by the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO), who provided an in-kind contribution of a portion of appraised market value of the property. LVC also preserved the parcels through grants.

Moosic Mountain stretches east from Scranton into Wayne County. The preserves join the 2,250 acre Eales Preserveand protected lands owned by the state Game Commission and Bureau of Forestry as part of the Moosic Mountains Highlands Natural Area.

McGurl’s organization works to preserve not just the Lackawanna River but also the scenic and cultural integrity of the entire Lackawanna Valley. Throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, groups like McGurl’s inventoried the natural areas of Lackawanna County.

"All those plans in succession reiterated the need to conserve the ridge lines and the mountaintop areas," he said.

The ridge lines of Moosic Mountain are home to rare habitats with pitch pine and scrub oak, McGurl said. It has shallow soils and rock outcrops impacted and influenced by glaciers. The newly conserved land has bat hotels that are important to increasing the bat population.

"That's a benefit for everybody, because they take care of keeping the mosquitoes in check," he said.

Sterry Creek borders the lower half of the Eales Preserve. Already existing hiking and biking trails could extend into the property. Grassy Island borders State Game Lands 300 and the Pinchot State Forest.

"We're just starting to investigate how we're going to develop and manage it," McGurl said.

The region’s population is increasing, he said. Because of the area’s proximity to the highway system, there is a rise in logistic companies building large warehouses, storage facilities and trucking depots.

"Those impacts need to be mitigated by protection of open space," McGurl said. "And especially in sensitive habitat and important watershed areas so that we can maintain the water recharge areas for our reservoirs and our water supply.”

The Grassy Island Creek Preserve and the Sterry Creek Preserve are not currently open to the public.

The LVC welcomes input as they develop plans for public use on these sites. Volunteers are also needed to serve as conservation stewards for the preserves.

For more details on the preserves or volunteering with the LVC and LRCA’s Conservation Corps, contact lvc@lrca.org or 570-347-6311. Also, visit www.lrca.org.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.