1999 EPA Wetland Program Development Grant

"Enhancing the Role of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center
in the Spring Creek Watershed"

Office of Environmental Programs (3ES30)
United States Environmental Protection Agency
1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029

Submitted By:
Centre Regional Recreation Authority
2643 Gateway Drive, State College, Pennsylvania 16801
(814) 231-3071

July 14, 1999

PROJECT PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES

Since 1965, Centre Region Parks and Recreation (CRPR), an agency of the Centre Region Council of Governments, has been coordinating public leisure services on behalf of residents of the Centre Region, involving parks of five municipalities, year-round recreation programs, and close cooperation with community groups. As a result, the agency provides a full range of recreation services and facilities for children, adults, and seniors. This grant application is a request to assist an important new endeavor involving many community groups with the creation, growth, and most importantly, protection of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, 548 Puddintown Road in College Township (MAP 2).

In January 1997, the CRPR Board accepted the challenge to act as the coordinating agency for the operation of a regional nature center. At that time, a 35-year lease from The Pennsylvania State University to the Centre Regional Recreation Authority (CRRA) became effective for a 62-acre tract, which includes a critically important 50-acre wetland area and a 12-acre farmstead, for development as Millbrook Marsh Nature Center.

With a picturesque and environmentally-significant wetland area located close to the population center of the region, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center offers a unique opportunity to serve the function of linking the entire Spring Creek Watershed community (MAP 1). With the ease of access by roads and bikeways, it has the potential to develop into an "environmental hub" of the region that links other local municipal parks and open space for the entire community.

Thanks to the cooperation of many dedicated volunteers and Centre Region municipalities, a vision has developed for the future of the regional nature center. The Millbrook Marsh Nature Center Advisory Committee, consisting of varied groups and community organizations (roster attached), has been instrumental in carefully planning the future of Millbrook Marsh. Over the past two years, the Advisory Committee has worked with the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center in developing the Protection and Management Plan for the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. This plan, prepared for the ClearWater Conservancy (our primary partner-organization) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will act as a guide for all management activity and site enhancements in and around the marsh. In addition, several area architects and engineers have volunteered their services to prepare detailed plans involving improvements to the farmstead area of the nature center (site plans attached). Working from those plans, numerous volunteer groups have accomplished some clean-up and improvement projects at the nature center to date, but the site remains essentially a barn and a series of upland trails. The wetland itself is threatened by two major effects of urbanization: storm water and invasive plants.

PROJECT TYPE

We are asking the United States Environmental Protection Agency to consider a grant of $71,573 for developing a comprehensive wetlands protection program, as recommended by the Protection and Management Plan for the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. Sufficient matching funds are available. Other significant in-kind donations will be provided by both the administering organization (CRPR) and others. This project provides excellent prospects for leverage and pattern-making effects to assist in drawing additional financial support.

The title of the proposed project is "Enhancing the Role of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in the Spring Creek Watershed" and would span three Environmental Protection Agency established priority projects, including:

Wetland / Watershed Protection Approach Projects
River Corridor and Wetland Restoration
Outreach and Education

Funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency would help ensure that Millbrook Marsh Nature Center: (1) Offers a series of state-of-the-art scientific interpretive facilities, (2) Serves as a central environmental hub for the surrounding watershed, and (3) Would receive increased levels of protection from the community.

The following mission and overall management goal envisions Millbrook Marsh Nature Center as a sanctuary for nature and representative cultural heritage in a quickly urbanizing context. They set the framework for management that will help ensure a flourishing and complex ecosystem, one that the people of the Centre Region will come to cherish and steward as a place of discovery, learning and inspiration. And because the Nature Center’s vitality depends to a great extent on human influences beyond its boundaries, these goals and principals are proactive in calling for conservation measures throughout the watershed, which is under intense urban development pressure, including a new Interstate Highway (I-99).

 The mission of the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center is to educate and inspire people about the natural world and to instill a passion for the environment through science, history, culture and art.

Overall Goal of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

To protect, restore, and enhance the biotic, abiotic, cultural and scenic values of the site, and to promote public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of this heritage. Priority will be given to the protection of the wetland and stream ecosystems.

In order to meet restoration / mitigation goals of Vice President Gore’s Clean Water Action Plan of continuing to slow the rate of wetlands loss nationwide and increase the net gain of wetlands each year until 2005, this grant request also addresses at least five of the following outstanding regional issues:

Long-term monitoring of wetland hydrologic conditions using reference and disturbed site conditions

Internet access to wetlands information and permit data

Effects of land use development on certain biological indicators (ongoing biological monitoring) and projections for future conditions

Non-tidal wetland mitigation design criteria to prevent colonization by non-native species

Characterization of secondary and cumulative development from new highway and interchange construction

The project proposal provides excellent opportunities for outreach and education to the general public, which includes both children and adults of all ages. Each project component / module described below has the potential to encourage information exchange among the public about the important functions and values of wetlands in order to increase public understanding and awareness. In addition, the anticipated project results may be transferable to other projects and localities within the Spring Creek Watershed community, and subsequently, the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed community.

Description of Project Tasks Quality Assurance QAPP

MILLBROOK MARSH NATURE CENTER . . . A BRIGHT FUTURE

The Protection and Management Plan for the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center was developed to guide first, the protection of the site, and second, how management of the wetlands should proceed. The Plan highlights just the beginning of many future wetlands projects, protection activities, and educational opportunities at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. This United States Environmental Protection Agency Wetlands Development Grant Program project proposal is a first step in ensuring that Millbrook Marsh will be an integral part of our community for many years.

 Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, nestled in the ridge-and-valley province of Pennsylvania, an area rich in both natural and cultural histories, is a "diamond in the rough". With the assistance of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Center has the potential to grow and flourish into an important link in the Spring Creek Watershed Community where children, and adults of all ages can enjoy the outdoors, as well as learn more about the importance of protecting our of wetlands and other significant natural resources.

ACTIVITY & BUDGET SUMMARY

It is proposed that these projects be completed over a three year period, beginning in mid-1999 through mid- 2002.Detailed expenditures described in Part III Section F, the Activity & Budget Detail, are directly linked to activities / project components detailed above. For a brief explanation of in-kind contributions, please see Attachment A of SF-424A.

Project Goals

The overall goal of the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center is to protect, restore, and enhance the biotic, abiotic, cultural and scenic values of the site, and to promote public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of this heritage with priority given to the protection of the wetland and stream ecosystems.

More specifically, the goals of this project with regard to "Enhancing the Role of Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in the Spring Creek Watershed" are as follows.

Natural History Goal: Developing models and plans to monitor and improve the health and integrity of the Center’s natural aquatic and upland ecosystems by protection, restoration, and enhancment of ecological and hydrological functions in a manner that promotes self-sustaining and diverse biotic communities. 

Education and Interpretation Goal: To develop plans for providing opportunities for students of all ages to explore and learn about the site’s ecosystem and its role as headwaters to the Spring Creek Watershed and the Chesapeake Basin in a manner that is experiential, participatory and respectful of the natural world.

List of Deliverables

The final goal check list, in keeping with the above project goals and Millbrook Marsh Nature Center overall goal, is as follows.

To install two water resource monitoring stations in Millbrook Marsh

To replace native and remove non-native plant species.

To strengthen riparian continuity and remedy habitat patch isolation by examining landscape linkages and re-establishing riparian corridors.

To provide shelter and nesting for scarce or extirpated species by improving riparian habitat, bank stability and water quality through streambank stabilization and revegetation.

To install a wetland/water laboratory in the Millbrook Marsh Barn

To install instructional displays including a simulated beaver lodge and a live video view of aquatic organisms in Millbrook Marsh.

To educate and provide an intensive aquatic study site while protecting sensitive wetland areas (the calcareous fen) by creating a shallow pond and fringing marsh for intensive aquatic study.

To educate and provide riparian, wetland and watershed information by creating a wetland website.

To install interpretive displays at monitoring stations and within Millbrook Marsh.

To facilitate and encourage comprehensive multijurisdictional watershed management and land use policies by convening two Best Management Practices workshops.

Deliverables

Semi-annual reports will be submitted on January 31 and July 31 using the format issued by the Environmental Protection Agency Region III Office of Environmental Programs and will consist of the following: grant title; Federal identification number; budget / project period; our project officer’s name and telephone number; funds expended to date; funds remaining to be spent; goals / objectives; assessment of planned vs. actual accomplishments; and a short narrative of any program deficiencies / corrective actions.

Our last semi-annual report will be comprehensive and include deliverables and a final summary report following the above format. The final summary report will provide details on accomplishments, and the role those accomplishments played in the development and / or improvement of our Wetlands Program. The final comprehensive report will be due ninety (90) days after the expiration of this project.

Appendix

Map 1 Spring Creek Watershed

Map 2 Millbrook Marsh - Study Area and Context

Map 3 Millbrook Marsh - Land Use

Map 4 Millbrook Marsh - General Hydrology

Map 5 Millbrook Marsh - Soils

Map 6 Millbrook Marsh - Vegetation

Map 7 Millbrook Marsh - Management Zones

Map 8 Millbrook Marsh - Circulation, Access and Visual Resources

NOTE: SF 424 Follows. Please note that for SF 424, block 15:

Section b. - "Applicant" refers to Centre Regional Recreation Authority

Section d. - "Local" refers to all local government agencies including Centre Regional Planning Agency and Centre Region Council of Governments (COG).

Section e. - "Other" refers to the Cooperative Wetlands Center, local architects and contractors, the Summer Regional School of Excellence, Day of Caring volunteers, the Clearwater Conservancy Oversight Committee, and other community groups.

  On to Project Tasks