Based in State College, ClearWater Conservancy is the foremost land trust and natural resource conservation organization in central Pennsylvania. Since 1980, ClearWater has worked to improve central Pennsylvania for all through land conservation, water resource protection, and environmental outreach to the community.



Press & News

12/03/2013
Musser Gap Greenway to connect State College, Rothrock State Forest

Construction is under way on the first phase of the new Musser Gap Greenway, a recreational connection between Rothrock State Forest and the proposed Whitehall Road Regional Park. The trail will be completed and open in spring 2014.

The effort is a collaboration between ClearWater Conservancy and Penn State.

“This project is the culmination of a lot of planning and a lot of dreaming,” said Dan Sieminski, associate vice president for Finance and Business at Penn State. “This is a wonderful use of the property and a great partnership between the University and the community.”

The Greenway will eventually link the Musser Gap parking area off of State Route 45 in Rothrock State Forest to the planned Whitehall Road Regional Park on Whitehall Road.

“ClearWater Conservancy is excited about the greenway because, when it is complete, residents and visitors alike will be able to access Rothrock State Forest safely by foot or by bike from just about anywhere in State College,” said ClearWater’s conservation biologist Katie Ombalski. 

Once complete in fall 2015 or spring 2016, residents and visitors using the existing Centre Region bikeway system will be able to travel from downtown State College to Rothrock State Forest. Phase 1 includes the section from the Musser Gap parking area that crosses SR 45 (Shingletown Road) and Slab Cabin Run to a gravel road on existing farmland.

Surfacing of the greenway is happening in phases, with the fall construction almost complete. The final trail surface layer will be deferred until spring when conditions will be right to ensure proper curing.

“Increasing public access to conserved lands and nature improves the quality of life for everyone in our region and is an important part of ClearWater’s mission,” said Ombalski.

“We were happy to be able to partner with ClearWater,” added Sieminski, “and also the many other local and regional organizations who also made this project a reality.”

Primary funding for the first phase of the Musser Gap Greenway comes from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation and Bureau of Forestry, Stahl Sheaffer Engineering, Penn State, ClearWater Conservancy, Department of Community and Economic Development, Centre Region Bike Coalition, Bikes Belong Coalition, Kodak American Greenways, State College Borough and Ferguson Township.

Additional Greenway partners include Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Outdoor Experience Organization, Freeze Thaw Cycles, The Bicycle Shop, Specialized, Rothrock Trail Challenge, LaSportiva, Sweetland Engineering and Associates, and WHM Solutions. The general contractor for the project is John Nastase Construction.

The 423-acre Musser Gap property was conserved by ClearWater Conservancy in 2006 and transferred to Rothrock State Forest in 2007. ClearWater Conservancy is also partnering with Penn State to plant a riparian buffer along Slab Cabin Run as part of this project.

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09/19/2013
Kevin Abbey Joins ClearWater

Kevin Abbey of Ferguson Township has joined State College–based ClearWater Conservancy as its Land Conservation Manager.

Abbey will build upon the work of Bill Hilshey, who has been with ClearWater since 2004. Hilshey is relocating to Missoula, Montana.

In his new role, Abbey’s chief responsibility will be to work with landowners who want to protect their property with a legal agreement called a conservation easement. He will also be responsible for monitoring ClearWater’s protected properties.

“I’m absolutely delighted to join the dedicated team of professionals at Clearwater and look forward to supporting the organization and its essential mission within our community,” he said.

Abbey brings more than 30 years of experience in community development, technical outreach, environmental management, and transportation policy to ClearWater.  His former position of general manager of the Centre Area Transportation Authority brought Abbey and his young family to the Centre Region in 1984.  Followed by service in the Senate of Pennsylvania as executive director of the Transportation Committee and more recent assignments at Penn State’s Institute of Energy and the Environment, PennTAP and the College of Engineering, he has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the environment.

He received a BS in zoology from the University of Michigan, an MA in language and literature from Central Michigan University and has a professional certification in applied river morphology.

“We are thrilled that Kevin Abbey is joining the ClearWater team.  He has the set of skills that we need to grow our Land Conservation Program by proactively working with landowners to protect the most sensitive and threatened natural resources in our region,” ClearWater Executive Director Jennifer Shuey said. 

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ClearWater Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), Centre County based land trust and environmental conservation organization formed in 1980 with the mission of promoting the conservation and restoration of natural resources in central Pennsylvania through land conservation, water resource protection, and environmental outreach to the community.  For more information about ClearWater Conservancy’s conservation, restoration, or education projects or to view an upcoming schedule of events, visit clearwaterconservancy.org or clearwaterconservancy.ning.com.

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05/31/2013
Environmental Community Recognizes Watershed Advocate

ClearWater Conservancy and the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited will award the 10th George Harvey Spring Creek Heritage Award this year to Kristen Saacke Blunk at the Spring Creek Festival on June 1, 2013 at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. 

 “The George Harvey Memorial Spring Creek Heritage Award is given each year by ClearWater and the Spring Creek Chapter of TU to a volunteer deserving of the conservation community’s praise and thanks,” said Jennifer Shuey, Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy.  “I am particularly honored that we are presenting this award to Kristen Saacke Blunk, because she has been one of my life’s mentors, leading me to the work that I do with ClearWater Conservancy to this day.”

Kristen’s first job upon arriving in State College in 1994 was as the Coordinator of ClearWater Conservancy.  In 1996 she became its first Executive Director, a position she held until 1998.  It was during Kristen’s era at ClearWater Conservancy that our community hosted an International Countryside Stewardship Exchange that led to the formation of both the Spring Creek Watershed Association and the Spring Creek Watershed Commission.  Kristen also worked closely with the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, as both a consultant and a volunteer over the years.  After pursuing a Master’s degree through the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center (now Riparia), Kristen served for a year as the Environmental Education Coordinator for the Penns Valley Conservation Association.  More recently, she was the Director of the Agriculture and Environment Center at the PSU College of Agricultural Sciences. 

This past year, Kristen formed her own company, Headwaters LLC and is contracted with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to work with communities like ours throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to strategically support and develop water quality and habitat improvement projects and monitor environmental outcomes.  She is also finishing up a term as the volunteer Chair of the Spring Creek Watershed Association. 

Kristen was surprised with the award at the May Spring Creek Watershed Association meeting, since she will be unable to attend the ceremony at the Spring Creek Festival on June 1.  Instead, she will be at the airport sending her oldest son off to his Peace Corps assignment in Burkina Faso that day.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for honoring me as this year’s recipient of the George Harvey Memorial Spring Creek Heritage award.  I am truly humbled to be counted among those you’ve honored in the past, as I am well aware of the depth and breadth of prior recipients’ gifts and contributions to our community – and especially to the protection and preservation of Spring Creek and the waters that feed it,” said Kristen in a letter of thanks to ClearWater and TU.

“I am also grateful for the privilege of being a part of a community that – through the work of many, ClearWater, Trout Unlimited, and an amazing network of partners including the Spring Creek Watershed Association and Commission – cares for our waters in ways that literally trickle through all aspects of our lives.  Youth programs at Millbrook Marsh, fly-fishing instruction, connections to arts and the environment, public education on how we care for the lands that are within our own spheres of influence:  these are just a few examples of the extraordinary, yet ordinary ways that ClearWater, TU and others remain faithful towards the good work of conservation and natural resource protection and sustenance.”

According to Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited President, Judi Sittler, “Kristen has so much knowledge and background associated with the Spring Creek Watershed.  She exudes enthusiasm along with a professional work ethic that makes working with her easy and fun.”

In addition to Kristen Saacke Blunk, other past George Harvey Memorial Spring Creek Heritage Award winners include:  George Harvey, Tony Gerace, Bob Carline, Bob Donaldson, Rob Brooks, Joe Humphreys, Bob Eberhart, Don Hamer, and Dan Shields.  Each has contributed in important ways to the protection and enhancement of Spring Creek over the years. 

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ClearWater Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), Centre County based land trust and environmental conservation organization formed in 1980 with the mission of promoting the conservation and restoration of natural resources in central Pennsylvania.  For more information about ClearWater Conservancy’s conservation, restoration, or environmental education projects or to view an upcoming schedule of events, visit www.clearwaterconservancy.org or www.clearwaterconservancy.ning.com.

The mission of the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited is to conserve, protect, and restore Spring Creek’s coldwater fishery and watershed.  For more information about the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit www.springcreektu.org.

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