A Natural History of Millbrook Marsh,
A Wetland In An Urbanizing Setting
Land Use On-Site
In recent years, land use within Millbrook Marsh has been varied. Fishing has persisted throughout the years on mainly a "catch and release" basis for at least the past 20 years. There are several informal foot paths used mainly by anglers, and less frequently, by hikers. A path along Puddintown Road, on the northern edge of the site, from the Route 322 overpass to the tractor path leading to the barn is commonly used by joggers. Since the summer of 1997, a slightly meandering path has been mown to take the place of the route the joggers used, directly beside the road. The new path winds through some early successional growth of shrubs and young trees, more like the path proposed in the Circulation and Access Plan for the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center (Map 4). Two tree stands erected by hunters exist in the southeastern portion of the site. Residents of the adjacent neighborhoods frequent the marsh for walks and enjoyment of nature. On the 5 ha section previously known as Penn State's Farm 12, the pasture areas have been used by horses and the farmhouse was and is still a leased residence.
In the more distant past, a portion of the marsh used for a small scale farming operation. The area surrounding the Quonset hut, including parts of what is now the Mt. Nittany Expressway, was used to raise vegetables and fruits. Slab Cabin Run was bridged to allow access to the interior where more of the wetland was used for farming. This ended in 1981, when the land was no longer leased due to plans for the highway.
Other less anthropocentric land uses include flood control, sediment control, preservation of flora and fauna, erosion control, wildlife habitat, habitat for threatened, rare or endangered species, water quality and water supply (Brooks 1989, Richardson 1994).
In progress now is the conversion of 25 ha (62 ac) of Millbrook Marsh into the new Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, which includes 5 ha of what was known as Farm 12 in the past. For the past 2 years renovations have been made on some of the outbuildings of the farm. The Millbrook Marsh Nature Center Advisory Committee meets in the newly renovated barn about once monthly during the warmer seasons. Plans for the Nature Center are only approximate at this time, though construction of a water permeable gravel parking area will probably begin in the summer of 1998. The proposed paths, boardwalks, bridges, and parking areas have been designed to afford the most benefit to visitors to the marsh and residents of the Bathgate neighborhood, and to cause the least impact on the fragile environment (Map 4). Present and future land uses on the Farm 12 section have also been established (Map 5). Management zones have been determined to delineate the amount of protection needed in each area of the marsh (Map 6). The Protection and Management Plan for Millbrook Marsh (Brooks et al. 1998) characterizes and documents the current ecological conditions of the site and proposes management strategies to protect and restore the natural and cultural features of The Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. If possible, all or most aspects of the 25 ha Nature Center will be in keeping with the recommendations set forth in the Millbrook Marsh Protection and Management Plan. The exception to this is the possibility of the Bathgate Spring Run section of the marsh. It is possible that water from the stormwater basin at Penn State will be piped into Bathgate Spring Run at the bend in Puddintown Road across from the dairy. The probability that this will occur has prompted the Millbrook Marsh Advisory Committee to consider various alternatives such as moving Bathgate Spring Run so that it can be preserved from damage by large amounts of high velocity stormwater.
Several areas within Millbrook Marsh have been used as reference wetland and study sites by Penn State faculty and graduate students. A small pond is proposed for one area on the Farm 12 portion of Millbrook, to afford another study site for classes and Nature Center visitors (Map 5).
The site offers continued avenues and areas for recreation, education and research. Activities could include birding, photography, painting, picnicking in some areas, restoration including long term studies of restored wetlands, studies of human impact, stormwater impact research, flora and fauna inventories, invasive plant removal and replacement research, endangered species and rare ecosystem research (propagation and reintroduction of extirpated, rare, threatened or endangered species), among others. The possibilities are many with this particular wetland site.
On to Chapter 3