Last Update: 2/26/2016 3:29:00 PM
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area may close
Harrisburg, PA - The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, a popular destination for hunters, hikers and birdwatchers, is being considered for closure because of dwindling state funding, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials said Thursday.
Middle Creek is a 6,254-acre complex of woods, ponds, managed fields and a 500-acre lake straddling the Lancaster-Lebanon county line near Kleinfeltersville.
R. Matthew Hough, executive director of the commission, said the agency also is considering closing Howard's Nursery, Centre County, which provides seedlings for land restoration projects, and reducing its pheasant-stocking program.
"I have no doubt that these proposals will not be popular with the general public and our hunting license buyers," Hough said, when presenting his plans to the state House Game and Fisheries Committee on Wednesday. "Without additional revenues, we will have no choice but to make significant budget reductions."
State game officials said they are hoping the Legislature will increase hunting license fees to raise money to keep the facilities open.
The $20 cost of a license has remained the same since 1999.
It cost $1 million to operate the visitors center, a shooting program and the grounds from June 2014 to June 2015, according to Joe Cosack, commission spokesman.
Cosack said that the commission is doing the best it can to keep Middle Creek afloat.
"We won't be closing the gates," Cosask said. "Programs at the visitors center might be scaled back. We are trying to scale back the services without hurting outdoor recreationalists. The cost of doing business is going up."
Cosack said the primary job of the commission is to manage wildlife, noting that Middle Creek is known for its wildlife.
Al Keith, who has worked as an attendant at the Middle Creek visitors center for 25 years, estimated at least 100,000 people visit the wildlands each year. The land is known for attracting tens of thousands of white snow geese and tundra swans in spring.
"We have regulars," he said. "There will be a lot of people who are not too happy if we close the visitors center."
Keith said the wildlife area hosts field trips for senior-citizen and school groups from Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties throughout the year.
"I don't know of any school that doesn't come here," he said. "Everybody really likes it."
Keith understands the state can't keep its wildlife center open if there is no money for operating costs.
Keith said several part-time workers have been cut during the last year.
The visitors center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. It is closed Mondays.
Contact Holly Herman: 610-371-5029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.