Preserve donations lagging

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the second detailing the plight of Montour Preserve, a popular recreation spot for the region.

Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) Director Bob Stoudt believes several factors have contributed to the falloff of donations to support the preserve.

“It’s donor fatigue,” Stoudt said. “We’ve been doing this for five years.”

He added that there are a number of worthy organizations in the area needing funds, which decreases the amount of available donor dollars.

“The corporate culture in our area has changed,” Stoudt continued. “Some companies that used to exist, make substantial donations, have either left or have changed the way they make donations.”

Stoudt has been working with a development advisory committee to craft a strategy to raise the funds needed to operate the preserve beyond the next year.

The plan includes establishing a $1.5 million endowment with the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation that would generate $60,000 in annual funding for MARC.

Plans are also being made to solicit $65,000 from area municipalities, particularly Montour County. An additional $65,000 would also have to be raised from area businesses and individuals.

“Montour County, to their credit, is trying to find some way to find that additional funding for us,” Stoudt said. “The Montour County commissioners clearly understand the gravity of the situation. They are working to find the additional funding.”

Since 2015, Stoudt said 4,338 acres of publicly accessible land in Montour County have reverted to private ownership.

If funding isn’t secured, he fears Montour Preserve could join that list.

“There was a large chunk of publicly accessible lands near Washingtonville and the Montour power plant,” Stoudt said. “Since 2015, those lands have gone off to sale, either through auction our outright sale. In the last few years, we tried to acquire those parcels. We tried to get them protected as publicly accessible lands.”

He noted that MARC was not successful in those efforts.

For Stoudt, it’s been difficult to watch land converted from public to private use while also witnessing the struggles of the Montour Preserve to stay afloat.

“I grew up outside of Turbotville, I was a Warrior Run graduate,” Stoudt said. “I hunted the lands around the Montour Preserve. These things are personal to me. They’re gone now.

“These are areas that, for generations, families had hunted or hiked or walked there,” he continued. “These are fights that we have had, since 2015, to acquire these into public ownership or in some ways protected public use. They are gone now. The Montour Preserve, too many people think it can’t happen. The harsh reality is, it really can.”

While the future of Montour Preserve is in question, Stoudt said use of the facility remains strong.

Last year, an estimated 90,000 people used the Montour Preserve.

“This year, a number of the busy weekends have ended up being rain outs,” Stoudt said. It’s possible the number might be slightly less, largely because of the weather.”

On nice days, he said the preserve is “jam packed.”

“The use of the boat launch, particularly by kayaks, has grown strongly,” Stoudt said. “Many weekends, the parking lot is over full.”

Stoudt said he’s currently making his “last best push” to secure the funding needed maintain the preserve long term.

“By Aug. 26, I will have to go into my board meeting and report ‘yes, I had success and the long-term effort is brighter,’” he said. “Or, ‘in spite of our best efforts, it’s a complete failure. We may not be able to do it.’”

Anyone interested in contributing to the effort to maintain the Montour Preserve can either call Stoudt at 570-336-2060 or make a donation online at www.MontourRec.com.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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