January 28, 2007

Area Great Outdoors Get Greater: About 2,600 Acres in Luzerne County Has Been Incorporated into Lackawanna State Forest.

By Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

Jan. 28--Don't let the name fool you. The Lackawanna State Forest is extending its reach well into Luzerne County, offering residents ample room to hike, hunt, fish and enjoy other outdoor pursuits.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acquired the deed for approximately 2,600 acres of former Theta Land Corp. property along state Route 29 in Lehman, Jackson and Plymouth townships. The deed acquisition finalizes a $2.1 million purchase coordinated by the Conservation Fund in 2004. The Conservation Fund is a Virginia-based nonprofit that handles land sales. The acreage has been incorporated into the Lackawanna State Forest, which encompasses more than 15,000 acres in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties.

DCNR spokeswoman Christine Novak said forestry personnel will conduct an inventory of the property and determine the locations of trails, parking lots and signage.

"Our state forest lands are managed for recreation and, when it's appropriate, timber. We also provide access to hunters," Novak said.

DCNR also acquired a parcel known as the Avondale Hill Project in Plymouth Township last summer, according to Nick Lylo, assistant district forester with DCNR. That parcel, which was purchased from the Earth Conservancy, is between 400 and 500 acres and was also incorporated into the Lackawanna State Forest.

Lylo said all of the property is heavily forested, with the exception of a three-acre pond located to the north of state Route 118 on the former Theta land. The property will be used for recreation, watershed protection, timber management and wildlife habitat.

"This is good news for the region because it is conserving watershed land," Lylo said.

The parking lots, trails, public access points and signage should be in place later this year, he said.

DCNR may add more Luzerne County property to the Lackawanna State Forest. During the latter part of 2003, the Luzerne County Commissioners approved spending $4 million from a bond issue to purchase more than 4,800 acres of Theta property in the Mountain Top and Bear Creek Township areas. The Conservation Fund also assisted with the purchase, and Novak said the intent was to transfer the property to DCNR to be incorporated into the state forest system. The property includes the Crystal Lake area, which is the site for a proposed 34-turbine wind energy facility.

The transfer has yet to happen, Novak said, and a legal review is ongoing to review a number of issues.

Public access and safety in relation to the possible construction of the turbines are among the issues under review, she said.

"We're looking at public access in relation to the wind turbines. There are some safety issues we recognize that need to be addressed," Novak said. "I imagine (the turbine project) could have a small impact on access from a safety and security standpoint."

A plan to construct the turbines is under appeal to Commonwealth Court.


Copyright (c) 2007, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

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