The future of the Montour Preserve is in jeopardy.

The beautiful natural resource that offers boating, picnic pavilions, walking trails, educational and visitors centers in the heart of Montour County, could be virtually shut down — with the exception of public fishing and boating on Lake Chillisquaque — unless funds are raised to continue operations, maintenance and repairs beyond September 2020.

Bob Stoudt, director of the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC), said it costs about $130,000 a year to operate Montour Preserve, and he is hoping to raise more than $200,000 to adequately maintain the nature park as well as other parks and trails across the county.

“If we don’t get contributions, it will end much sooner than later, and it won’t be the scenario we want to see play out,” Stoudt warns.

He notes that the 657-acre preserve is well-used by more than 90,000 people a year from throughout the region. On nice days, the parking lots are full, he said.

The status of Montour Preserve changed in 2015 after Talen Energy purchased the nearby coal-fired power plant and the Montour Preserve land from PPL Utilities.

At that time, Talen gave MARC 30 days to decide the fate of the preserve, dictating in writing that if MARC did not step in to maintain the park, the pavilions, boat launch, sugar shack for maple syrup programs, restrooms and bird observation blinds would be removed and trails would no longer be maintained. Talen said the 657-acre Lake Chillisquaque could be used for public boating and fishing, but people would need to carry their watercraft to the lake.

In the wake of the 30-day notice, MARC was able to raise $100,000 from the public and businesses. “After that, donations from individuals and businesses flatlined,” Stoudt said. “This is terrifying.”

Indeed, it is terrifying that the Montour Preserve, a natural jewel offering so much to so many people, could slip away simply because there was not enough financial support.

A rally cry is needed. Citizens, organizations and businesses must unite, step forward, organize fundraising events and offer donations in order to preserve the Preserve.

We can only hope that enough money can be raised to quell the current “terrifying” circumstances, replacing them with natural joy.

All donations are tax-deductible. Checks can be mailed to MARC at P.O. Box 456, Danville, or donations can be made online at: montourrec.com/donate.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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