It was a day that was long anticipated in Boiling Springs but still appeared to come sooner than many had dared to hope.
Around 40 or so residents and officials gathered at the village’s clock tower on Saturday morning to celebrate the news that after months of waiting, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office has released $2.4 million in promised funding for Children’s Lake.
“It’s a beautiful day. It’s a great day to kick off spring,” said Jorie Hanson, who founded the Save the Lake organization in mid-2017 with lifelong friend Liz Knouse. “It’s hard to believe that we’re in a place that we are today. It’s been less than a year since we started.”
The project’s next step is a design phase that is expected to run from September 2018 to September 2019, said Mike Nerozzi, director of policy and planning for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The commission will be in charge of awarding the project’s contractor bids. Construction is estimated to begin in 2020 and wrap up the following year.
“Children’s Lake is definitely iconic,” Nerozzi said. “The Fish and Boat Commission is really excited to be capturing the future with this project for generations to come.”
Last year, South Middleton Township procured the $400,000 needed for the project’s design phase, including $150,000 from the township’s local design funds, $25,000 from F&M Trust and $12,500 each from Allen Distribution and Mowery. This, along with $200,000 pledged by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, was considered enough to cover engineering costs for repairs to the lake.
Save the Lake was formed with the backing of the Bubbler Foundation to accept charitable, tax-deductible donations from the community and corporate sponsors. It raised more more than $10,000 through the sale of merchandise and donations.
In November 2017, Wolf signed a deficit patch measure for the state’s $3.2 billion budget that included a $2.4 million appropriation to the state Fish and Boat Commission for repairs to Children’s Lake. At the time, however, township officials remained uncertain when Wolf’s office would release the money.
“When we stood here (at the lake) in the summer, I’d wonder if we’d ever get here,” Sen. Mike Regan told Saturday’s crowd. He credited the work of township solicitor Bryan Salzmann in getting the job done.
“You can’t get thing done without teamwork,” Salzmann added.
It was Salzmann who announced at a township supervisors meeting on March 8 that the commission had sent notification verifying the governor’s office release of the appropriated money for lake and dam repairs.
“We are excited with today’s turnout and the excitement and community support that has been part of this project from day one and will continue,” South Middleton Township supervisor Rick Reighard said on Saturday.
Also recognized on Saturday were Haylee Erme, a seventh-grader at Yellow Breeches Middle School, and Elaina Clancy, a Boiling Springs High School senior. As a sixth-grader, Haylee wrote a letter to state officials asking what she could do to help save the lake. She and Clancy wound up raising around $2,000 for the cause by collecting donations and selling Save the Lake merchandise at several community events.
“The lake is a central part of the community,” said Clancy, 18, who moved to Boiling Springs as an 8-year-old. “I run past here every day. I remember spending Christmases here, kayaking and all the fishing.”
Almost 160 farms have been selected to stay in agriculture since the Cumberland County Farmland Preservation Program ranked its first round of applicants in 1992.
Virtually all the preserved farms are located in the fertile valley of limestone soils between the Conodoguinet Creek in the north and the Yellow Breeches Creek in the south, said Stephanie Williams, program administrator.
The farms total about 18,200 acres or about 12 percent of all the farmland in Cumberland County, she said. “We are ranked eighth in the state in the total number of acres preserved.”
A seven-member board will be meeting this spring to select eight more farms in which to purchase conservation easements using about $3 million in state and county funds, Williams said. There are 30 applicants on the list.
Williams and her staff will weigh each application based on a set of criteria before recommending a ranking to the board. Staff will then contact the farms that are selected to verify if the property owners want to proceed with the appraisal stage of the process.
Under the program, each property owner is paid no more than $4,000 per acre based on their location and the difference in the appraised value between their land in agriculture and their land in development, Williams said.
If the property owner approves the restriction, the land will be placed in a conservation easement for perpetuity meaning that it must stay in agriculture forever. It is not a program that should be entered into lightly.
“The deed of conservation easement is a 10-page document that gets recorded in the recorder of deeds office,” Williams said. “It is a legally binding document that follows the land from property owner to property owner.
“The decisions these families make will affect future generations,” she said. “I always encourage applicants to talk with their family and their children. Hopefully, everyone is on the same page.”
Williams is straight-forward with every applicant. The current cap on conservation easements is $4,000 per acre. “We are not in a position financially to compete with developers,” she said.
The county maximum is nowhere near what some developers are willing to pay a farmer for their land, said Kent Strock, a farmer in Upper Allen Township and president of the Cumberland County Farm Bureau.
What the program does is give the farmer a short-term influx of cash in exchange for a long-term restriction on his property, Strock said. He said the money can be used to expand a farm operation by adding acres or livestock to improve the standard of living of the farmer.
“Many farmers are using the money to pay down debt or to buy new land or equipment,” Williams said. “Our hope is they are taking the funds and reinvesting in agriculture.” The program rules do not put any restrictions on how the farmer could spend the money.
Preserved farms continue to increase in value even though they are restricted to agriculture, Williams said. “As land gets developed, preserved farmland is at a premium.
“We are always looking for eligible applicants,” she said. “We want to preserve the best of the best farms.”
The county program started in 1989 and had its first round of approvals in 1992. By that time, there was so much development in the eastern part of Cumberland County that there were no farms left to preserve, Williams said. To be eligible for the program, the farm must be in an agricultural security area as designated by a township.
The amount paid per acre tends to lean towards the $4,000 cap between Mechanicsburg and Carlisle, Williams said. This is because that farmland is under the greatest amount of development pressure. There is a cluster of preserved farms in Monroe Township that extends into the nearby townships of Upper Allen, South Middleton and Middlesex.
Most of the 160 farms preserved in the program are west of Carlisle where the development pressure is not as great and there is no public water and sewer, Williams said. There the amount paid per acre tends to average around $2,500.
To qualify for the program, the farm must be at least 52 acres and located within the security area. In the past, the board has accepted smaller farms if the land is adjacent to a preserved farm in the theory that the program can build upon an existing block, Williams said.
She said 50 percent of the soil has to be Class One or above and the farmer must provide an approved erosion and sedimentation plan. “We want to make sure they are being good stewards of the property,” Williams said.
Farmland preservation is a program of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture administered at the county level. As such, the bulk of its funding is from the state with support from the county.
“Occasionally, we get federal funds or work with a municipality,” Williams said. “We also have the ability to accept private dollars to invest in the program. If someone is willing to donate, we can use that money as match to get additional state dollars.”
The seven-member board includes a township supervisor, two at-large citizens and three farmers. There is also a contractor who represents the development community.
“They are geographically varied and diverse in their backgrounds,” Williams said. “The common thread is they are all passionate about farmland preservation and agriculture.”
She said the board tries to balance the need to preserve agriculture as an industry with the need for growth and development. Each year each application receives a ranking based on criteria.
Forty percent of the score takes into account soil quality based on soil maps. Limestone soils between the two creeks tend to be the most productive while the more shale based soils north of the Conodoguinet and south of the Yellow Breeches tend to be less productive and more prone to drought, Williams said.
Another 30 percent of the score takes into account “clustering,” the proximity of the applicant farm to other preserved farms within the agricultural security area. The location of the applicant farm must also be consistent with the Cumberland County land use map.
Having preserved farms clustered together makes it easier to farm and lessens the impact agriculture has on nonfarm neighbors, Williams said. “Where you have more preserved farmland, you can sustain ag-related businesses.”
Twenty percent of the score examines the farming potential of the applicant, specifically how much of the farm is being used for production and how much income is being generated by the farm. This factor is important in determining the long-term sustainability and viability of the farm.
Lastly, 10 percent of the score is what the board terms “development potential.” This takes into account the proximity of the farm to public water and sewer and the amount of road frontage.
Farms with only a couple hundred feet of frontage are less at risk of development because of the distance criteria needed for a major driveway or entrance street. “If you have a mile of frontage, you can subdivide off lots pretty easily,” Williams said.
The reason “development potential” only makes up 10 percent of the score is because the county only wants to preserve the best farms in those areas where it makes the most sense to sustain the agriculture industry, Williams said.
The county does not want to encourage the preservation of farms in areas where there is public water and sewer because development would just skip over the preserved farms and create a patchwork of incompatible uses.
Lots of people dream of becoming professional musicians, making a lot of money playing on stage to a packed crowd of adoring fans.
But that’s the glitz and glam of the career. Most people do not realize the daily grind of making a living playing music.
Trinity High School senior and pianist Connor Rohrer is an exception to that.
For more than a year Rohrer has been performing multiple shows a week with several groups in several styles of music. And that’s all while holding a 4.0-plus GPA and taking advanced level and college preparatory classes.
“I’m on the stage the whole time and I have a good time,” he said. “I’m playing three to five gigs per week. Sometimes it’s a little bit less than that. Sometimes it’s a little bit more.”
Equally impressive as his academic achievement is that Rohrer’s passion for music and performing has not eroded under his busy and sometimes hectic schedule.
“I think it’s important to have fun,” Rohrer said. “When I go to gigs, it’s like I’m hanging out with friends. When I go to gigs with my bandmates, that’s my fun time, too, and I’m having a good time playing music and hanging out with them.”
Rohrer, the son of Lisa and Curt Rohrer, performs classical, rock, pop and jazz music. Jazz, however, has been his main focus, he said. He said he seeks to be a versatile musician with the understanding that that “is where the money is at.”
At only 18 years old, Rohrer has accomplished more than many musicians do in their entire career. Rohrer is a youth ambassador to the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, was a member of the all state orchestra and jazz band, was selected to the all-east orchestra and is the first chair bassoonist in the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra.
He, along with his jazz band, will also take the stage at the Berks Jazz Fest in April to open for renowned jazz bassist Victor Wooten.
While Rohrer said opening for Wooten is his greatest accomplishment to date, it is not the first time he performed with a well-known artist. Rohrer said one of his groups recently opened for 1970s and ‘80s rock star Eddie Money during a house party.
“Now, Eddie Money isn’t the Eddie Money of the ‘80’s, but it’s still cool how you can get into gigs with people you know who know people who know people,” Rohrer said. “It was so cool. It was fun.”
All of this is made possible by Rohrer’s talent, work ethic and time management. He said he attempts to get much of his school work done during free periods at school to allow more time for music outside of the classroom.
“Sometimes I stay up a bit later than I should have,” he said. “But it’s mostly just time management. I really try to maximize my time and ensure that I’m doing something productive, but I hate thinking that way because then it’s not fun.”
Rohrer said he has not decided what to do next year as far as college is concerned, but he hopes to move to Philadelphia or New York to pursue a career in music performance.
“I’ve been accepted to three colleges,” he said. “I’m very hesitant about going because I understand that getting a degree in performance doesn’t guarantee you a job out of college. I’m not exactly really sure what I want to do, but I want to be successful and I want to be happy.”
Cumberland County is working with a land trust in Lancaster County to enhance local farmland preservation efforts through a public/private partnership.
The Lancaster Farmland Trust recently received a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to conduct a needs assessment in Cumberland County, said Stephanie Williams, administrator of the Cumberland County farmland preservation program.
The trust has experience working with Amish and Mennonite farmers, Williams said. “They generally don’t want to work with the government in Cumberland County.
“There is a fairly strong population of plain sect farmers in certain parts of the county,” she said. Most are located in the Newville, Newburg and Shippensburg area.
There is an opportunity for Cumberland County to enhance its program by having the plain sect farmers here work through the Lancaster Farmland Trust, Williams said.
Each year the seven-member Agricultural Land Preservation Board ranks farms for the county program based on soil quality, proximity to other preserved farms, agricultural potential and development potential.
A partnership with the trust would allow farmers who have not met the county ranking criteria the option to seek farmland preservation through a different channel, Williams said. She cited as examples farms with shale soils or a small farm that fills in a gap near a cluster of already preserved farms.
“The terms of our [conservation] easement are what they are – We don’t have any flexibility,” Williams said. A partnership with the farmland trust could allow for greater flexibility on land use to farmers.
The $50,000 grant will be used to assess whether the donor base exists in Cumberland County to support a public/private partnership with the Trust, Williams said. She added the county will schedule meetings with local farmers to determine what if any barriers exist.