Exploring wetlands: an outdoor opportunity for everyone | City and Dress
Wildlife for Everyone Foundation volunteer Mark Nale shares the view of the beautiful wetland from an ADA accessible awning in the Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis viewing area. (Photo by Darren Andrew Weimert)
Every moment I spend outdoors gives me good luck. The time I spend with nature helps refresh my mind, uplift my soul, and rejuvenate my body. I feel grateful to live in an area with so many outdoor opportunities and to be physically able to get out on the trail often. It’s not something I take for granted, as I know that for many, going outdoors is not that easy. For those with physical limitations, crossing a rocky and pitted trail can sometimes be impossible.
In Julian, the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation, whose mission is to promote conservation and education of wildlife in Pennsylvania, strives to provide access to nature for all in the Soaring Eagle Wetland viewing area and Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis. The work they do will ensure that everyone will have the opportunity to feel a connection with nature.
Recently Jerry Regan, Chairman of the WFEF Wetlands Committee, met me and my puppy, Peggy, to show me around the area. Public relations coordinator Barb Schroeder and Mark Nale, a volunteer writer and outdoor photographer for the foundation, joined us on the tour of the wetlands.
I have been curious about the wetland for years as it is not far from my home in Port Matilda. Located on South Eagle Valley Road (Old Route 220), just southwest of downtown Julian, the 130 acres of wetlands – originally called Gov. Tom Ridge Wetlands Preserve – are found on both sides of the road and were created to alleviate the wetlands that were lost during the construction of Interstate 99.
“It’s interesting when we have [the state Department of Environmental Protection] here they were saying how hard it was to replace Mother Nature, but these wetlands worked, âsaid Regan, when we met at the Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Viewing Area trailhead. He’s right – the wetlands seem clustered and full of life.
The viewing area has an address of 145 Miles Hollow Road, Julian, and there is a nice parking lot that can accommodate school buses and other vehicles. There is plenty of accessible parking near the trailhead.
The recently completed viewing area features ADA accessible shelters that overlook the beautiful wetlands that are just perfect for bird watching. A plaque near the first shelter lists some of the birds that live or migrate through the wetlands, and Nale said the area is a great location for bird watchers.
âThere are well over 100 species that come here. It is a good area for warblers, waders. So that’s a sample of the birds that are here, âNale said. He added that all duck species from the eastern United States were found in the region. It is also part of a fairly important migratory route for the golden eagle, so there is always a chance to spot one during the season when they are on the move. Bald eagles are also common.
Nale explained that birds are drawn to this area because âwe have lost half of our wetlands to developments, agriculture, etc. … So having these wetlands creates a stopover for these migratory birds. As for warblers, we all have these low shrubs all over here instead of a forest. It attracts different types of birds than what you would see in a forest.
The location is an eBird access point, which allows birders to enter their information into a database with Cornell University to track migration.
âMillions of lists are now available for anyone to search, and they’ve used them to create some really neat migration maps. So when the birds leave, those points on the map disappear and you can watch them move towards South America. It’s perfect because it’s real-time data, âNale said.
An ADA accessible path connects viewers to another birding blind about 400 yards from the trail. Crushed gravel provides a smooth trail that is easily walked or wheeled, and it is durable. Benches along the trail provide hikers with space to rest and enjoy everything.
Bird Watching Shades provide low windows that allow wildlife watchers who use wheelchairs to have a great view at the right height.
âIt gives everyone a chance for dignity and to get out and enjoy nature. That’s what it’s about. â¦ The end result is to have a beautiful place to come, and it doesn’t cost anything, âRegan said. The viewing area was made possible by generous donations from its namesakes, Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis, and many other community members who support Wildlife For Everyone’s mission.
But the job is not done. Regan and his team have even bigger goals, including Phase Three, which includes another trail that would lead to an elevated ADA platform in the wetlands on the other side of Miles Hollow Road, near the completed trail and the observation area.
Phase two is underway in the Soaring Eagle Wetland, located just 800 meters south at 6543 S. Eagle Valley Road. When completed, it will help provide even greater outdoor opportunities for anyone who would like to have them.
This property currently includes approximately a mile of mowed trail through wetlands and access to Bald Eagle Creek. We walked around the property and many monarch butterflies were fluttering over the swamp. Blue bird boxes were dotted around the landscape, but birds hid from us as we walked. We reached a nice section of the creek and Peggy was happy to jump in to cool off with a quick swim.
The place offers excellent fishing opportunities and a chance to spot wildlife coming to the area for a drink.
The organization is working to raise funds for the next phase of the project, which is to make the site trails more accessible with paving stones and to provide a fishing platform, pavilion and accessible toilets for the ADA. . When completed, the trail will provide direct access to the water and allow everyone to have access to the stocked stream for fishing.
As they continue to raise funds for the next phases of work in the wetlands, the trails remain mowed and open to people. Volunteer groups are always needed to help with projects on the trail, and it would definitely be a learning experience to work with Nale. During our crossing, he was able to identify flowers and other plants that attract monarchs and birds.
As he lives nearby, Nale spends a lot of time in the wetlands and was happy to get involved when he heard about the opportunity here. He said the space is used by many members of the community who come to walk their dogs or fish.
âThat’s good for that, and it will be even better when we start with the accessible trail. We already have pavers donated to make the trail, except for the elevated parts. It will be a walk, âNale said.
Peggy and I really enjoyed our time in the wetlands and are happy to know that there is more to explore and find throughout the seasons. It’s also good to know that there are outdoor spaces that are accessible to everyone, and that there are people and groups like the Wildlife For Everyone Foundation working to make this happen.
More information on Soaring Eagle Wetland and Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Viewing Area is available at www.wildlifeforeveryone.org.