More than 100 members of the South Mountain Partnership gathered Friday to celebrate “the Power of Partnership” in preserving and marketing the South Mountain Region. The gathering was held Friday at the Hauser Hill Event Center, in Franklin Township.

The theme centered on the combined efforts of the organizations and businesses making up the partnership in promoting the wildlands and other features that comprise the South Mountains. Adams County Commissioner Marty Qually led off the speaker list by calling on the participants to improve the economic health of the region “without destroying it.”

“It matters if you live here, it matters if your economy is based here, it matters if you want to visit here,” he said. “you are preserving this place.”

He noted that only wine from Champagne, France, may be called “champagne.

 “If it’s outside of Champagne, France, what is it called?” he asked, then answered, “sparkling wine.”

He displayed another bottle, of Port wine, from Portugal. “If it’s outside the Douro Valley, it’s just (undrinkable).

He noted the people in both regions recognized the uniqueness of their landscape and “were willing to fight to preserve it.”

Final point, “why South Mountain Hard Cider is the best in the world. I’m not saying that it’s the best in the world. I can’t tell you what’s the best in the world — because no one has claimed it.”

Referring to Champagne, France and Douro Valley, Portugal he said, “They defined their landscape and then they took it.”

“We have the right landscape, we have the right people working that land, and we have all of you.”

Ended with, “Cheers to this partnership and to more partnerships to come, cheers to more victories, and cheers to more hard cider from South Mountain.”

Wildlands such as are featured by the South Mountains was a feature offered by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.

“This year has resulted in the best environmental budget … that we’ve seen in 16 years,” she said.

Governor Tom Wolf and the legislature recognized the need to improve conservation and recreation funding in the state. She noted $75 million will be used to upgrade facilities built in the 1970s, another $25 million will enhance the department’s grant program.  

“Because of the conflict with Russia,” she said the increased price of natural gas “produced $56 million more (in state coffers) than was budgeted.”

The added money made possible designation of three new state parks, temporarily named Susquehanna Riverlands in York County, Vosburg Neck in Wyoming County, and Big Elk Creek in Chester County.

She noted views of the Susquehanna River from the York County park, and pointed out the history built into the Chester County acreage.

“Some of the untold stories of (Big Elk Creek) include the freedom seekers,” she said, of the park “three and a half miles from the Mason Dixon Line … a major goal post for the freedom seekers.”

Harriet Tubman, said Dunn, guided 13 groups through the area, though she did not publish maps “for obvious reasons.”

The new park, she said, will allow people to “walk where she (Tubman) walked.”

Dunn touted the state’s wilderness, which had been the subject of the Pennsylvania Wilds campaign and morphed into Conservation Landscape.

South Mountain Partnership, “of all these great conservation landscapes, does it the best and does it the most.”

Lastly, SMP awarded so-called mini-grants totaling more than $50,000 to a variety of its partner agencies, including:

  • Adams County Trout Unlimited to forever preserve a 58-acre of fly fishing only section of Conewago Creek;
  • Cumberland County Trout Unlimited to stabilize a section of Yellow Breeches Creek near Mount Holly Springs;
  • Friends of Toms Creek to support community outreach for a greenway;
  • Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc.(HABPI) for a master plan to connect Gettysburg Borough with the new Adams County Historical Society facility; and
  • The Institute for “Conserving Wild Wonders,” the Institute’s pond project near Waynesboro.

Other recipients of smaller grants included the Butterbee Foundation for an interactive pollinator project; Franklintown Borough to establish its Archie Hess Memorial Park; York County Conservation District to expand York County Envirothon to schools that otherwise could not attend; and Friends of Monterey Pass to expand the historic area and museum at Blue Ridge Summit.

A few years ago, there was a political campaign effort touting the power of individuals to build industry and infrastructure. Friday was marked, for this reporter, with a celebration of the power of partnership.

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