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County Hall Corner 
By Larry Stout
Every Day is Earth Day

I was almost graduated from high school when the first “Earth Day” was held in April of 1970. Those living in the Age of Aquarius, which held its ‘Super Bowl’ at the Woodstock Music Festival just the year before, felt that it had to do “something” to save the planet. At the time of its founding, Earth Day seemed like just another one of those hippie ideas that would fade like tie-died shirts and sitar guitars.
But a funny thing happened — Earth Day survived. Truth be told, the hippies finally got it right — there was something wrong with American prosperity when it cost us to accept air pollution, unclean water, and depleting natural resources. It was also one of the very, very rare issues that actually appealed to Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slicks and county hicks. The ‘movement’ that was birthed that memorable day in April of 1970 led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the passage of the landmark Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Yes, the feds may have taken these far beyond their original intent over the next forty some years,, but at their core, they meant and did some very good things for our country’s environment.
So it was that the County Commissioners announced at their regular session on April 20th that this week, April 23-30 would be proclaimed Conservation District Week. This is in recognition of the Conservation District, which exists with a volunteer board of directors with farmers, public members, and a member of county government, currently Commissioner Rick Mirabito.
Conservation districts were created in Pennsylvania in 1945, largely inspired in response to the severe damage suffered by in Great Plains region devastated by drought in the 1930s. The combination of little rainfall, light soil, and high winds caused a destructive combination, and with the soil lacking a stronger root system as an anchor, the winds easily picked up the loose topsoil and swirled it into dense dust clouds. This phenomenon resulted in the identifying moniker, the Dust Bowl. Seventy-some years ago, Pennsylvania legislators wisely decided they did not want the same thing to happen here.
The mandate of Pennsylvania Conservation Districts is quite comprehensive, including forest management, agricultural land preservation, improvement of dirt and gravel roads, erosion and sedimentation pollution control, nutrient management, and environmental education. Granted that most folks do not get excited about things like insuring farmers use the right amount of fertilizer, but programs such as these are what insure the next generation has a world they can live in.
Lycoming County established this department back in 1956, one of the earliest in the Commonwealth, and it uses Earth Day as a promotion to emphasize the importance of conservation efforts. This is especially important in the area of education. Lycoming County Conservation District employee Corey Entz-Rine is responsible for the school program, which includes such activities as trout aquariums in area high schools in Jersey Shore and Montgomery. During Earth Day, the trout will be released in Little Pine State Park from Jersey School High School and Montgomery High School will release their school-grown trout in Black Hole Creek.
On Tuesday, April 25th, the annual National Conservation Federation Envirathon will be held at the Consolidated Sportsman Grounds off Rt. 87. At this event, teams of five high school students compete in field-testing using their knowledge in five topic areas - soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and environmental issues. Students are graded at each ‘station’ and the winner for the local event gets invited to the Pennsylvania Envirathon which will be held in late May at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown. The national competition will take place at the campus of Mount St Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland in late July.
The idea for this competition was birthed out of three counties in Pennsylvania in 1979 that came up with the idea to encourage interest in environmental issues through hands-on competition. Other counties joined in, and by 1984, it had a statewide competition. Other states took notice, and by 1988, it became the National Envirothon, with participation from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio. It has continued to grow over the past three decades, and today roughly 500,000 students from forty-five U.S. states and nine Canadian provinces/territories participate in the competition.
It all started from the Conservation Districts out of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. No wonder the county commissioners wanted to honor them during April 23-30. Every day is Earth Day for them.


 
 This Week’s LION:
Mark Davidson and the
Lycoming County Conservation District
By Larry Stout

In honor of Earth Day and the recognition of the Lycoming County Conservation District by the county commissioners, it seems appropriate to recognize the man who is the director of this important county organization — Mark Davidson. If ever there was a man who was born for the job, it was Mark. 
Mark Davidson was born and raised in Jersey Shore, graduating high school from there in 1983. During his youth his parents were big campers - especially at nearby Little Pine State Park, located just fifteen miles north of Jersey Shore. 2000+ acres of God’s greenest earth nestled around a beautiful section of Tiadaghton State Forest, with the lovely Little Pine Lake, hiking trails, and campground, Mark and his family spent every summer boating, fishing, and endless exploring nature’s mysteries and beauty at the park. It became so much of his life that Mark grew up with two sets of friends; his school friends and his summer friends from Little Pine. His parents eventually lived there, accumulating over 10,000 volunteer hours working at the park. 
Even when Mark went to California State University to study environmental conservation, he continued to work at Little Pine every summer. Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1987, he worked briefly at a chemical plant at Mill Hall, but a year later when he saw an opening at the county in the Conservation District, he jumped at the chance. When he joined the staff in 1989, the director was Tom Corbett (no, not the former governor, just shared the same name), a secretary, a part-time treasurer, and Mark himself as a technician. The staff eventually grew to six, and Mark’s responsibilities grew as well over the years, and when Tom Corbett eventually retired in 2007, Mark became the new director.
In looking back at his ten years at the helm of the Lycoming County Conservation District, Mark is proud of the work that he and his staff have done to improve the environmental conditions in this area, but takes particular pride in improving public awareness. He and his staff put an emphasis on outreach activities. (See “County Hall Corner” in this issue for an example of these efforts with the school Envirothon program). They have various education programs and also offer scholarships to national programs such as the Environmental Leadership Programs which offers weekend trainings in parks throughout the country.
Mark Davidson and his team have accomplished a great deal for the county, but he is quick to give high praise and credit to the seven-member volunteer board of directors; President Carl Schlappi, Paul Wentzler, Larry Fry, Joe Radley, Bill Messersmith, Bill Kahler, and Commissioner Rick Marabito. All are deeply committed and supportive to the work, and Mark looks to them continually for guidance and direction.
Mark lives a balanced life, which is sometimes unusual for a leader. Looking around his cluttered but orderly office, there are two mounted deer heads and pictures of elk and moose from a trip to Colorado on the walls, testimony to his avid love of hunting. But these are far outnumbered by numerous pictures of his young son Austin, who along with Mark is an avid Pittsburgh Pirate fan, and who make the trek together to take in at least six games a year at PNC Park. Keeping sanity in his life is his lovely and practical wife Patty, herself not a camper, but one who loves the out-of-doors and his highly supportive of her husband’s passion for nature.
Mark Davidson was highly reluctant to be recognized as a “Leader in Our Neighborhood,” so hats off to his whole team; Denise Moser, Rodney Morehart, Timothy Heyler, Curtis Wagner, Carey Entz-Rine, and Matt Johnson, and the outstanding board of directors that oversees them. Because of them, the world is a better place to live in.


First Annual StrEAT Food Festival
Comes to Williamsport
By Lou Hunsinger Jr.

A unique festival highlighting some of the culinary delights of the area will take place when the City of Williamsport proudly presents the first annual STREAT Food Festival on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1 Maynard Street (Bayard Printing Building). Tickets are available for credit card pre-sale online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2895189 and will also be available at the “door” for cash or check only.
This amazing event celebrates the Food Truck phenomenon sweeping the nation and features the incredible talent of some of Central Pennsylvania's greatest food truck/cart/trailer chefs. “We are looking forward to a successful first event and hope that it can grow from year to year,” Jessie Novinger, Director of Recreation for the City of Williamsport, told Webb Weekly.
There are various vendors from all over the region. Confirmed for this year’s festival we have: Brasil on Wheels, Bruster’s Ice Cream and Mr. Sticky Sticky Buns, Taco Bill’s Taco Madness, The Grilled Cheese Café, Lunger’s Pork Pit, Derone’s Dynamite Dogs, Alabaster Coffee, Donahue’s Chow Station, Village Eating House, Aioli Food Truck, WOW Foods, LLC., S.A.C. Lunches, Aaron’s Ice, and Hewlett’s Hot Sausage. They will also be featuring the Billtown Brewer’s Guild on site to offer samples of their many home brews from 1 to 5 p.m, as well as the Bullfrog Brewery and Restaurant selling their local craft brews throughout the entire festival. They are still finalizing additional vendors both food and non-food through April 24.
The festival will also feature live music from The Scott Bird Band, Goodish, and the Billtown Giants with a live remote from Backyard Broadcasting.
For any additional questions about the festival please contact Jessie Novinger in the City of Williamsport’s Recreation Department at 570-327-7510 or at recreation@cityofwilliamspot.org.



Wheeland, Everett to Host
Concealed Carry Seminar

Rep. Jeff C. Wheeland (R-Lycoming) and Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming/Union) announced they will team up again to host a Concealed Carry Seminar on Wednesday, May 3, from 6-8 p.m. at the Woodward Township Volunteer Fire Company, 4147 North Route 220 Highway in Linden. All interested residents of the 83rd and 84th Legislative Districts are invited to register to attend.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Pennsylvania’s concealed carry laws, and the purpose of this seminar is to present people with the facts,” said Wheeland. “The issues of the concealed carry law and the Pennsylvania Castle Doctrine will be explained in a concise manner so that residents can be safe.”
“These seminars are beneficial to Pennsylvania gun owners and we appreciate the time being taken by our law enforcement officials to help educate residents in our region,” said Everett.
Lycoming County District Attorney Eric Linhardt will discuss Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine and stand your ground laws, Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk will explain rules and regulations surrounding licenses to carry firearms, an officer from the Williamsport Bureau of Police and will discuss how to safely interact with the police when carrying a firearm. In addition, an officer from the Pennsylvania Game Commission will discuss carrying laws as they relate to hunting seasons.
Seating is limited and advance registration is required. Those interested in attending should contact Rep. Wheeland’s district office by calling (570) 321-1270, or via email at kmarshall@pahousegop.com. Or, residents can contact Rep. Everett’s district office by calling (570) 398-4476 or via email at kkoch@pahousegop.com. More information is available on Rep. Wheeland’s website at www.RepWheeland.com, and on Rep. Everett’s website at www.RepEverett.com.


 
 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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