Heritage Park, Nature Trail
The Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail is a multi-year plan to develop 11 acres of historical and environmentally significant property into a park and trail to be utilized by all Lycoming County, Pennsylvania residents, as well as tourists and visitors to the Susquehanna River Valley. Located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Muncy is a small town proud of its rural culture and historical heritage. This trail will allow Muncy to showcase the history and natural beauty of Penn Port, a commercial center and residential area that grew out of and around the bustling West Branch Canal industry of the 1800s.
Read about Muncy Heritage Park & Nature Trail.
The Master Plan, created by SEDA-COG is found here >>>
Sponsored by the Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History (MSHMH), the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project will involve a variety of organizations including the archaeology, history and art departments of Lycoming College, the archaeology department of Bloomsburg University, the natural sciences and integrated studies department of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, state Department of Protection, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state Fish and Boat Commission, Tiadaghton State Forest, Lycoming County Conservation District, Lycoming County Planning Commission, the National Canal Museum, the Pennsylvania Canal Society and the DCNR-Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
This multi-year project will incorporate all aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), social sciences such as anthropology and archaeology, and history, humanities and art. Minority scientists will participate in lead roles. The principal investigator is a woman.
Prior to all structural work and environmental landscaping at the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project, archaeological and historic research will be conducted that will involve college students during summer field schools, as well as public and private school children (K-12), teachers and volunteers year round. Public Archaeological excavations are planned on the sites of the canal lock tender’s house and well, one of the remaining locks and a portion of the canal wall. A new archaeology laboratory will be installed.
Biologists and forestry experts will work with adult volunteers and students to classify flora and fauna, design and create the nature trail. This research will be used when creating interpretive panels and historic facades. Engineers and mathematicians will utilize the older students and community volunteers to re-build the lock system and a wall used by the canal.
Interpretive panels that describe life and labor along the Pennsylvania Canal will combine with illustrations that help visitors discover the diversity of plants and wildlife found in the area. A number of benches will be placed canal side along the loop. There will be a picnic pavilion with kiosks containing exhibits, restroom facilities, and parking for the public.
In addition to the co-operative and independent educational opportunities for students and volunteers of all ages, the project will result in the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail, a permanent park, mobile outreach programs and educational materials for teachers to incorporate into their curriculum at county schools, an interactive and informative Web site, CD-ROMs and documentary videos. Portable exhibits and videos will be loaned to various schools and public institutions.
Northcentral Pennsylvania is primarily a rural, mountainous region and its largest county is Lycoming. With a population of 120,044, Lycoming County includes the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Its county seat, Williamsport, is the birthplace of Little League Baseball and Softball and each year hosts the annual Little League World Series, an international event.
The river lies at the base of the 1,600-foot Bald Eagle Mountains, at the foothills of the Alleghenies and to the north, the land rises in the forest-covered Appalachian Plateau, in places more then 2,000 feet high.
Once known as the “Lumber Capital of the World,” Lycoming County is 90 miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital. More than 70 million people live within 300 miles of the county, and cities within this radius include Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
However, despite its proximity to these major cities, the area’s attractions do not include many educational and recreational opportunities of a historic and discovery nature. The closest science museum is 90 miles away in Harrisburg; the closest art and anthropological museums are 65 miles away at Penn State University, State College.
There are several small historical societies and three museums. The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum showcases that sport’s history and caters primarily to series visitors. The Lycoming County Historical Society has historic museum exhibits and a research library. The Children’s Discovery Workshop, once a project of the local Junior League, is a hands-on playground for children ages 2-7. School children are invited to attend these attractions; however the exhibits do not change and, in the case of the Discovery Workshop, are excluded after a certain age.
The Heritage Park and Nature Trail proposed by the Muncy Historical Society will not be limited to one geographic location. In addition to the 11-acre complex, mobile outreach programs and exhibits will be designed and made available to all schools, public and private, local colleges and universities, public institutions, assisted-care facilities, community field-day organizers, libraries, municipal buildings and other historic societies and museums. Educational handouts, pamphlets and documentary videos will complement the outreach program, and enhance the curriculum of teachers from K-12.
The project also will serve as an archaeological field school for several local colleges and universities and as independent research for undergraduates, grad students and scientific professionals. Pennsylvania high school students must complete a multi-year senior project and may utilize the project for independent research in a variety of fields including history, geology, geography, zoology, biology and anthropology.
The Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project’s mission to produce scholarly research that will be used to create the 11-acre trail will enhance the visibility of the region’s professional scientists and historians, and enable the staff and students of colleges and universities within the region to collaborate with each other, with adult volunteers, school children and the general public.
The Public Archaeology portion of the project will focus on the training of undergraduate archaeologists and anthropologists as field and research specialists within an authentic, historical framework, as well as offer an opportunity for training and support to individuals interested in history as a career or as an enhancement to an academic career.
The Principal Investigator is a female, professional anthropologist with a master’s degree and specializations in Historical Archaeology. The director meets the qualifications specified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (PAC). These are derived from the federal regulations 36 CFR 800. An adjunct instructor at Lycoming College, the director’s role is as an applied researcher charged with teaching, advising and mentoring a volunteer archaeology staff.
The project will introduce students of all ages to the basic methods of professional field archaeology and participating students and volunteers will receive training in methodology, including excavation, field photography, survey, mapping and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Artifact preservation and conservation, classification and compilation of artifacts into a database also will be components. In addition to publications for the general public, researchers will generate articles for professional journals in a variety of subjects.
In addition to the academic impact, the Public Archaeology of the Canal Project will include on-site outreach programs such as community lectures, exhibits on archaeology, and demonstrations. Public and private school students will be invited to make annual field trips to the excavation site and laboratory to participate in tours and hands-on activities with artifacts. The historical society volunteers will accept invitations to speak at schools and organizations, and will have educational handouts both for children and adults.
The Principal Investigator, her students and volunteer staff will create mobile exhibits that focus on the history of the canal, the archaeological excavations and the biological development of the nature trail as it progresses. Throughout the four-year project, digital video will be captured of the research, excavations, landscaping, construction, visitor interviews and program development, resulting in a series of videos and DVDs. Information about the project will be distributed through Internet sites, museum publications, promotional brochures, educational pamphlets and site tours.
It is the goal of the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project to stimulate public interest in the study of many scientific disciplines, with archaeology and biology at the forefront. Traditionally, educators use displays, demonstrations, workshops, training in hands-on techniques, site tours and various instructional programs and materials to promote awareness of cultural resources, heritage and environmental preservation. These activities are designed to advance the ethical practice of science and to protect the region’s cultural resources. The public’s and education system’s use of these materials and the visitors to the Muncy Historical Society and its Heritage Park and Nature Trail will be a measure of the project’s success. Research generated by students and professionals, either published or maintained within the society’s archives, will help measure its academic impact.
The strategic impact of the venture will be most intense during its four- to five-year development, but once finished the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail is expected to last and be enjoyed for decades. The fact that the project concentrates on historical realities and the environment means that change will not affect it. The research generated will not become “old news” or dated, the technology will not expire. The information will be conserved and distributed in a variety of ways, print, electronic and digital, ensuring its stability.
The opportunity for students and volunteers of all ages to participate in a large, multi-year project that combines the intellectual and physical sweat equity of professional scientists and researchers is unique to this region. As educational priorities change within the school system in response to national legislation, most often the first victims are science, art and history. Few of the residents of Lycoming County realize the enormity of their cultural heritage, and the impact the canal system had on the settlement of America. Many canals were obsolete almost as soon as they were finished, replaced by the railroad and eventually nation’s highways. However, while they operated they fostered the pioneer spirit and helped relocate immigrants of the East Coast to the hinterlands. Although not profitable, most canals cost more to build than the income they generated, yet they were instrumental in the building of America.
Muncy’s Heritage Park and Nature Trail project will bring a long-lost and nostalgic episode of the past to life for all visitors by using colorful and informative interpretative panels, historically accurate facades of people, places and boats, permanent and portable exhibits, self-guiding audio tours, documentary videos, a Web site, printed publications and pamphlets, educational handouts, and an 11-acre nature trail. A working canal lock is planned that visitors to the park will be able to operate.
Seasonal demonstrations and re-enactments, history workshops, community activities and a welcoming park setting will encourage people to continue to visit the Heritage Park and Nature Trail year after year.
Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History is owner of the 11-acre property and has spearheaded the project. At their invitation, the venture will involve a variety of organizations including the archaeology, history and art departments of Lycoming College, the archaeology department of Bloomsburg University, the natural sciences and integrated studies department of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Susquehanna Greenway River Connections, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, the Humanities Council, the Arts Council, Pennsylvania Department of Protection, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state Fish and Boat Commission, Tiadaghton State Forest, Lycoming County Conservation District, Lycoming County Planning Commission, the National Canal Museum, the Pennsylvania Canal Society, the Northcentral Chapter of the Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology, and the DCNR-Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
The complementary resources of these organizations and the expertise of the scientific volunteers will result unique program and provide access to a varied audience.
Robin Van Auken is an anthropologist, author and independent historic consultant. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Applied Anthropology, Archaeology Track. She is an adjunct instructor teaching archaeology at Lycoming College, Williamsport, PA. She has published ten books of regional history. In addition to five years as a museum curator, she has 25 years experience in journalism and mass communications. Her professional memberships include the Register of Professional Archaeologists, Society for Historical Archaeology, Society for PA Archaeology, Northcentral Chapter/PA Archaeology and the American Association of State and Local History. She specializes in Public Archaeology projects and historic preservation. On the Internet at www.RobinVanAuken.com.