(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) When Tom Hoy retired from a career with the FBI and returned to his hometown of State College in 2006, he had plans to build a retirement retreat on a little piece of land on Tussey Mountain handed down to him by his parents.
The 29-acre slice of forest perched above Shingletown Road between Pine Grove Mills and Musser Gap had been in Hoy’s family since 1916. Hoy’s mother grew up on a farm at what is now the intersection of Whitehall Road and Route 26.
“The mountain land was a summering spot for heifers from the farm. They would drive them up there and that’s where the young ones would spend the summer,” he said.
Hoy’s plans unraveled as he began making inquiries about building on the land.
“I quickly realized how difficult it would be to access the property with a road. From the nearest public road, I would have needed right-of-ways from 14 different property owners to get to the land. Even if I had managed to build a road in, there were no utilities,” he said.
Faced with the realization that his mountain hideaway would never be built, he took a suggestion from a friend and called ClearWater Conservancy to explore conservation options.
Hoy met with Conservation Biologist Katie Ombalski, who suggested trying to sell the land to DCNR for inclusion in Rothrock State Forest. That suggestion, made in November, 2014, came to fruition December 18, 2015 when the DCNR Bureau of Forestry purchased the land from Hoy for $60,000.
“This way, a bit of my family legacy is preserved and the land is available to be used by everyone. I feel really good that if I can’t use it the way I had hoped, it is going to be part of the forest and the state will be looking after it,” said Hoy. “Others told me they would be interested in buying it, but I really thought it should be conserved.”
Mark Potter, district forester of the Rothrock State Forest, said he was happy to see a bit more land become public.
“This acquisition adds conserved acreage to Rothrock State Forest. A major emphasis of our work with ClearWater has been to conserve that face of Tussey Mountain looking down on State College and this fits right in with that effort,” he said.
With the addition of Hoy’s land, Rothrock State Forest is now 96,279 acres. ClearWater has purchased and transferred 928 acres of land on Tussey Mountain to Rothrock State Forest since 2007.
“It might seem like a small addition to the forest, 29 acres, but every bit helps add to the total of permanently conserved land,” said ClearWater’s Ombalski. “There are many of these small, inaccessible forested blocks of land on the mountainsides which are undevelopable for one reason or another. Others may want to consider what Tom did and transfer ownership to the state forest if it is possible.”
ClearWater Conservancy facilitated the sale by connecting Hoy with DCNR, helping negotiate terms and providing initial mapping of the land. Nittany Settlement Services of State College provided notary services and a meeting space for the settlement.
“We’re glad to pitch in with services and use of the office. It’s how we help support land conservation in central Pennsylvania,” said Scott Huber of Nittany Settlement.