Centre supports $300,000 grant for wildlife center

BELLEFONTE – With the help of grant money, the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation may soon have a $1.8-million recreation project underway.

During their Tuesday, April 10 meeting, the Centre County Commissioners approved writing a letter of support for a $300,000 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) grant, which will be matched by the nonprofit foundation, to assist with the project. Last week, the commissioners reviewed a 25-year lease agreement for the foundation to develop 55 acres of reconstructive wetlands west of Julian and Huston Township on Old Route 220 into a wildlife center.

The DCNR grant, along with other grant funding sources, will help create a one-mile-long accessible trail, accessible boardwalks, accessible wildlife observation areas, and an educational classroom and pavilion in part of a 135-acre area that the wildlife foundation acquired several years ago. This area was dedicated in June 2011 as the Governor Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve.

“We have got beautiful natural resources here in Centre County, a lot of state parks; it’s a wonderful place to recreate and this would just augment that,” Commissioner Mike Pipe said. “This will be a really nice thing for our community.”

According to Jerry Regan, president of the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation, the foundation will be applying for some other public grants, in addition to private and corporate grants.

The goal is to start the bulk of the project in a year, Regan said, with restoration of the Bald Eagle Creek area to begin in the coming summer and a dedication to take place the following summer. Upon completion of the creek project, there will be an accessible area for both fishing and observation.

The targeted completion date of the entire project is within less than three years, said Russ Schleiden, chair of the foundation’s board.

Regan spoke about a young wetlands committee member who is in a wheelchair. That member recently joined the committee after previously working as a contractor, and he had fallen from a roof a few years ago, which resulted in paralysis from the waist down.

Regan said, “He’s another connection of why this project will help so many people, not only wheel-chaired, but those who just maybe can’t walk that far and want to have this connection with nature.”