PENN LAKE PARK — Conservationists can check off another 390 acres of untouched forest to be preserved into perpetuity.
At a dedication ceremony Friday, a representative from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ceremonially accepted property that former Penn Lake Park resident Carolyn Goeringer Basler sold to honor her parents’ memory. The Harry and Mary Goeringer Preserve connects state game lands from Bear Creek to Nescopeck State Park.
Basler inherited the property from her parents, who founded what is now Penn Lake Park Borough in 1946.
Four years ago, Basler called Ellen Lott of The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation advocacy group, to see if her land could be protected in its natural state. The state conservation department paid Basler $643,000 for the property, about half of its assessed value, Lott said.
Money was provided from the Keystone Conservation Fund.
At the dedication, state Sen. Lisa Baker said when she worked in Gov. Tom Ridge’s office 15 years ago, the office had its eye on Basler’s property when conservation plans were being drafted for Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. She was happy to say Basler’s contribution put them a few acres closer to fulfilling that plan.
“When Carolyn and I spoke four years ago, never did I envision it would take such a long time,” Baker said.
A two-mile hiking trail — accessible by a parking lot along Hollenback Road just after the Dennison Township border — cuts through the preserve. The parcel also contains sections of Wright Creek, a natural Brook trout habitat. Fishing is permitted with proper licenses.
Lott proudly announced that the Goeringer property has created a corridor of more than 10,000 acres connecting the two previously preserved tracts. With a green marker, she filled in the Goeringers’ space on a large map of the Bear Creek region depicting protected acreage.
Preservation is just what her parents would have wanted, Basler said. “I know my folks would be thrilled with it,” she said.
The freshly preserved land is a boon to the small town. Borough council Vice Chairwoman Jill Rosenstock said what were once mostly summer homes are becoming full-time residences, and the community becomes more desirable for home-hunters once it’s surrounded by preserved land.
“What the Baslers have done is essentially making sure that people want to continue living here,” Rosenstock said.
There’s no one formula for preserving land, said Dennis DeMara, northeast supervisor for DCNR’s conservation and recreation bureau. “(Conservation) has so many facets to it,” he said. “We’ll never have enough money to protect it all.”
Instead, the department looks for creative ways to work with nonprofit land trusts such as The Nature Conservancy, county and local governments to buy land for preservation, usually adding some element for humans to interact with nature.
Some land is donated, while some property, like Basler’s, must be bought.
Lott said her organization works only with willing private property owners. The Nature Conservancy has worked to preserve more than 15 million acres in the United States.