The organization that authored a Deed of Conservation Easement now under fire in Silver Spring Township said it’s willing to go to court to maintain the land’s protected status.
The Cumberland Valley School Board approved a resolution on Jan. 23 that authorizes the district to negotiate the purchase of a 116-acre lot at 31 Old Willow Mill Road bordering Carlisle Pike in Silver Spring Township around Hogestown. The property, known as the McCormick Farm, is for sale by a real estate firm at a listed price of $1.5 million.
The district plans to acquire approximately 100 acres of the land, excluding the historic house that sits on the property, through eminent domain, according to a district media statement issued on Monday. At this point, the district says it has no definite plans for the property, instead reserving it for future growth needs.
Natural Lands, which wrote the property’s conservation easement deed, is ready for a fight, according to statement an organization representative submitted to The Sentinel on Wednesday.
“Natural Lands (previously known as Natural Lands Trust) holds a conservation easement on an 108-acre portion the property located in Silver Spring Township known as the McCormick Farm. The purpose of the easement is to keep the property whole and free from development,” said Oliver Bass, vice president, communications and engagement for Natural Trust.
“We are aware that the Cumberland Valley School District has voted to exercise eminent domain so that it may acquire the property for future use. We have retained legal counsel and intend to do everything in our power to protect the integrity of the easement,” Bass’s statement concluded.
Natural Lands works throughout eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey to save open spaces, care for nature and connect people to the outdoors. Based in Media, it owns 44 nature preserves and holds more than 370 conservation easements on nearly 23,000 acres.
In response to Natural Lands’ statement, Cumberland Valley School District communications specialist Tracy Panzer said that Natural Lands “has made us aware of their opposition.” She cited a media release issued by the district on Monday as further reference.
The district’s previous statement said, “Cumberland Valley School District continues to experience unprecedented growth in enrollment. … To that end, the district made the decision to obtain a sizable portion of the 116-acre tract of land located at 31 Old Willow Mill Road. The district will acquire approximately 100 acres of the land, which does not include the historic house that sits on the property.
“The (McCormick Farm) property has been encumbered by a Deed of Grant Conservation Easement, which has been reviewed by the district solicitor. It was written into the deed by its author, the Natural Lands Trust, that once the property, or portion thereof, is taken by condemnation, the conservation easement terminates automatically by operation of the law.”
The farm has been preserved since at least 1870 by the McCormick family and is widely regarded as a regional historic link. James McCormick, who was born on the farm, was president of Dauphin Deposit Bank, the Harrisburg Bridge Co., and the Harrisburg Cemetery. A distant cousin, Cyrus McCormick, invented the reaper.
At a Cumberland Valley School Board meeting on Monday, around a dozen residents spoke out against the district’s negotiations to acquire the property during a public comment period.
Board president Michael Gossert told the crowd on Monday that the district is running out of space, tallying at a 90 percent building capacity even with two new schools under construction. “This is our bull’s-eye area right here. They keep building houses here in Silver Spring Township,” he said.
The district’s enrollment is approximately 9,142 students, an increase of more than 1,700 students since 2010. The district’s three-year average growth rate is 2.22 percent or more than 200 students per year, a trend that district officials said they expect to continue for the next three to five years.
In Silver Spring Township, the district’s three-year average growth rate is 3.61 percent with no apparent end in sight. District officials said they anticipate more than 200 new residential homes will be in the township for at least the next three years, accompanied by a strong market for existing homes.
The district has two schools under construction that are due to open in 2018-19 at Bali Hai and Lambs Gap roads in Hampden Township. Winding Creek Elementary School is scheduled to open in August 2018, followed by the opening of Mountain View Middle School in March 2019.
According to district statistics, Winding Creek Elementary is expected to open with 95 percent of its seats already filled. Mountain View Middle School is expected to open at 86 percent capacity.
One phrase has resonated through the growing effort to salute Carlisle High School alumni who are Vietnam War veterans.
“It’s long overdue,” Kevin Wagner said. “That’s the phrase I keep hearing over and over again.”
A history teacher and social studies program chair, Wagner wants to create a commemorative plaque listing the name, year graduated and service branch of each school attendee or graduate who served in Southeast Asia during the war.
As of last week, he has compiled information on 102 people, including a few men who attended or graduated prior to the actual war years but made careers or long-term enlistments out of their military service.
Wagner wants as complete a list as possible for a bronze or cast iron plaque that would be mounted in the main hallway of the McGowan building, where it would be visible to people attending events. The public has until March 31 to call Wagner at 717-240-6800, ext. 26132, or email him at email@example.com.
His tribute to Vietnam veterans will include a memorial to nine graduates who were killed in action. Cherry wood flag cases and flags have already been purchased. The names of each of the fallen have been etched into the glass. Underneath each case will be a framed short biography and photograph of the person.
The plaque and memorial will be funded by donations from the public. The deadline for making a donation is the same for providing a name. People should use the same phone number or email address.
“The response by the community-at-large has just been overwhelming and impressive,” Wagner said. “I personally never expected it to be this overwhelming. It makes one feel good. It’s not just the veterans that see the worthiness of this recognition, but the young people.”
Since word of this project surfaced in late December, Wagner has seen his list of known veterans grow from about 33 to 102 names, and the donations increase from about $600 to $3,500, including a $1,000 pledge from the Bison Foundation of the Carlisle Area School District.
At one point, the response was so enthusiastic that Wagner was receiving several names daily over a period of two to three weeks. He verified each name against the high school yearbooks for 1960 to 1975 and the commencement programs for each graduation ceremony. The vast majority of the 102 individuals listed graduated before entering the service. Five did not graduate and two received GEDs after leaving high school, Wagner said.
The Carlisle High School Class of 1967 has been particularly active in the effort to develop the Vietnam Wall of Honor, Wagner said. On Feb. 27, three members of that class presented the school with a $1,000 check from VFW Post 7343 in Mount Holly Springs. Local VFW and American Legion posts, along with Rotary Club members, have been instrumental in getting the word out on the project.
If everything goes according to plan, there will be a public ceremony dedicating the memorial and plaque either the Friday or Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 25 or 26.
Carlisle Area School District students will be involved in the ceremony, and the plan is to bring in veterans to show students how to properly fold the flags that will be placed in the memorial cases for the nine fallen alumni.
“Now more than ever, it is a good time to talk about the war,” Wagner said. “There is not the negativity of the era in which the war occurred. A lot of veterans are willing to share.”
Still, Wagner has received word through the channels of local Vietnam veterans who would rather remain anonymous and not have their names on the commemorative plaque.
Though Wagner did not talk to them directly, the input he has been receiving is those particular veterans are not proud of what the United States did in Vietnam so they would rather not be involved. “I completely respect that,” Wagner said.
“My biggest fear is there are names that are left out,” he said. “But as I tell my students, ‘History is imperfect. There is always a piece that is missing. You will never get it perfect or get it right.’”
The idea for this project grew out of a growing fascination with the Vietnam War that has developed in this country over the past year or two, Wagner said. He mentioned in particular the Ken Burns documentary series on the war that aired on PBS last September.
Along with that, Wagner noticed that while memorials exist in Carlisle High School for military veterans, there was nothing substantial for Vietnam War veterans. The idea to pay them tribute solidified in 2017 after Wagner attended the annual teachers’ conference of the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies.
The conference offers educators professional development opportunities including workshops on best practices, teaching methods and curriculum ideas. There Wagner learned of a school near Philadelphia that offered a yearlong project for high school students interesting in researching graduates who served in Vietnam.
Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
The average household credit card debt has risen from less than $2,000 in 1986 to more than $8,000 in 2016, according to CNBC.
Even when adjusting for inflation, the typical credit card debt owed by people in America has doubled in that time frame. That is on top of a rising student load debt.
One lawmaker wants to encourage high school students to invest a bit more in learning about financial literacy.
Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-Monroe County, has introduced a bill that would allow students take a financial literacy course in place of one of their current graduation requirements.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that individuals save money, make sound financial decisions, grow their assets and develop a secure financial future for themselves and their children,” Brown wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “However, many families are financially insecure, with little or no savings to cover emergency expenses or plan for the future. In order to help young people acquire the knowledge necessary to make wise financial choices as adults, I believe high school courses in personal financial literacy should be encouraged.”
House Bill 429 would give students the option to take a course in personal financial literacy and have it count as a credit toward the current social studies, family and consumer science or math credit graduation requirements.
Which area the personal finance course would count toward would be up to the determination of the local school board, according to the bill.
When Brown introduced the bill, the class was only eligible for a social studies credit but was amended in committee.
The bill has cleared both the House Appropriations and Education committees and passed the full House with one dissenting vote.
Brown’s bill was sent to Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Hollidaysburg, in the Senate Education Committee in November, where it has not been brought up for a vote.
Bosler Memorial Library in Carlisle now offers fingerprinting services.
The added service is the result of a contract change at the state level, which named IdentoGo as the new fingerprinting service provider for the commonwealth. Fingerprint-based background checks are required for employees and volunteers in a number of fields as a result of changes made to the child abuse clearance requirements made in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial.
As IdentoGo organized its rollout of services, the company looked for locations to house its fingerprinting centers. Carlisle was identified as a target area, and the company had prior success with centers in libraries in other areas.
That led to a cold call to Bosler’s executive director, Jeffrey Swope.
The library offered a downtown location, is handicapped-accessible and is a facility already structured for easy access, Swope said. That initial call led to several months of discussions that required photos of the facility, site visits and paperwork.
The library had to move a staff member’s office to create the dedicated space for the fingerprinting area. Staff also had to go through additional security clearances and be trained on the system, which pipelines all personal information off-site.
“No records are kept here. We have no access to any of that,” he said. “We are the conduit, if you will.”
Walk-ins are not accepted, so people who need fingerprinting services must register and set an appointment online or by telephone, which can be made by calling 844-321-2101 or visiting https://uenroll.identogo.com.
Swope said the procedure is set by the company and its computer system, making it impossible for the library staff to bend the rules for a walk-in. The library is working on an addition to its website that will offer helpful hints and general information about the process so that they can avoid such situations.
Because the center is a subcontracted location, the library is paid for each set of fingerprints, and it also receives a portion of the fee charged for passport photos. In December and January, the fingerprinting services generated $1,500 of income for the library.
“It becomes something that helps support the services and programs and collections here at the library,” Swope said. “It’s an additional funding stream for us, and that, to us, was the win-win of it.”
Libraries have frequently had two or three funding streams on which they fully relied. That puts them at risk if there are cuts, for example, to state funding or if the funding does not increase to match costs. As a proponent of using multiple funding sources, Swope liked the idea of an additional $15,000 to $18,000 for the library’s coffers thanks to the fingerprinting service.
“That’s certainly not enough to fund the library, but it’s one more component piece that makes up wildly diverse funding and revenue streams that we have,” he said.
There’s also no extra burden on the financial staff at the library because payments for the fingerprinting services are also handled through the company, which then sends the library a check for its services.
With an estimated 500 people per month coming through the library for these services, there is also the potential to expose new audiences to the library’s offerings.
“I can promise that some of them have never set foot in this library or haven’t been here in years and years and years or never saw the new building, or were never users of the public library, and that’s a whole new audience for us,” he said.