Students' Efforts Aid Proposed Muncy Nature Trail
Forestry students in Dennis F. Ringling's timber harvesting and equipment lab at Pennsylvania College of Technology recently completed a project that combined civic service with a respect for local history.
The class helped the Muncy Historical Society remove diseased, unsafe and storm-felled trees from the site of its proposed Heritage Park and Nature Trail along the old West Branch Canal.
"Dr. Ringling and his students cleared all of the identified trees that posed an immediate hazard or would have impeded our ability to proceed with the project itself," said William J. Poulton, society president. "This project will involve a variety of organizations, and we are delighted that Penn College has partnered with us in these early stages."
Development of the historically and environmentally significant property is a multi-year endeavor that ultimately will showcase Port Penn, the commercial and residential center that grew up around the canal. The Historical Society is developing the site off Pepper Street (in conjunction with an archaeological dig around the canal lockmaster's 19th-century well and home) to showcase the diverse wildlife and plants along the old canal and to share with visitors the importance of the waterway to the region's growth.
"I emphasize the fact that students will need to get involved with their communities wherever their career takes them," said Ringling, a professor of forestry in Penn College's School of Natural Resources Management. "It's the price we pay to be on this earth of ours."
He also tells them that their biggest job is the one that involves "communication, education, cooperation and compromise."
"They need to be proactive and take initiative when the opportunity presents itself; I believe that is what we are doing in this project," he said.
The students were split into work crews, fanning out across the 11-plus-acre site to clear, haul and pile timber for disposal or transport back to the college's sawmill for processing.
"I was impressed by the students' professionalism, tireless energy and desire to apply their classroom knowledge through practical experience," Poulton said. "While we had presented an aggressive forestry-clearing project timeline, the students met the challenge and delivered their portion on time."
The class also got an abbreviated history lesson from the society's well-versed president, who shared anecdotes of the once-bustling canal's operation and explained the students' vital role in telling that story these 200 years later.
"You're helping us reclaim this site for the community," he told them during one of the working site visits. "Someday, when you bring your families here, you can say, 'I had a part in this.' "
More information about the Muncy Historical Society's archaeological dig and trail project is available here .