When the Manada Land Conservancy was formed in 1996, its five members were Hanover Township residents who wanted to see the farmland around their local waterway, the Manada Creek, preserved.
Today, the group totals more than 400 members, and they have helped protect nearly 2,000 acres in Dauphin County.
“So often, you talk to someone who says, ‘My community looks so different from when I was growing up,’” said Jennifer Hine, executive director. “They don’t know they can have some control over that. Our primary mission is to preserve the wetlands, forests and valuable farmland here.”
While the Manada Land Conservancy does own some of the preserved acres outright, the primary method of preservation is through perpetual easements.
“We work with landowners who voluntarily want to preserve their land,” Hine said. “Over 90 percent of the land we’ve preserved has been done through easement. We put permanent restrictions on the subdivision and development of the property, and it’s our responsibility to uphold those in perpetuity.”
Once the easement is in place, the landowner can still sell or bequeath the property, and Hine said preservation doesn’t mean the land becomes useless to its owner.
“There are different protection levels,” she said. “If there’s already a house, that might mean minimal protections, and the owner can still build outbuildings or put an addition on the house. There are typically no restrictions on hunting and some land might still be logged if there’s a stewardship management program.”
The Manada Land Conservancy receives occasional grants, but the organization largely depends on the support of local businesses and individual members.
“Over 70 percent of our general operating funds comes through membership,” Hine said. “We have a lot of business supporters and hundreds of individuals who like what we’re doing. That’s our most stable source of income.”
Currently, the Manada Land Conservancy is focused on preserving the land surrounding the Swatara Creek and the Kittatinny Ridge.
“We’re committed to creating a greenway around the creek,” Hine said. “A 35-foot buffer of vegetation along the sides of the creek really helps the storm water control and absorbs pollutants coming off the roads and off our lawns before they enter our waterway.”
Hine thinks some residents of the county—particularly the younger generation—may not entirely grasp the creek’s importance or impact on their lives.
“A lot of people in this area don’t realize the Swatara Creek is their drinking water source,” she said. “I think kids in later generations especially have a big disconnect when it comes to knowing where their water comes from. You turn on the faucet and there’s your water. You don’t realize it’s actually coming from the creek down the street.”
Manada Land Conservancy is working with other local and national organizations to preserve the land along the Kittatinny Ridge—known locally as Blue Mountain, Endless Hill or Great Mountain. The 185-mile long ridge is the easternmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains.
“The ridge is a globally recognized migratory bird flyway,” Hine said. “We’re under a grant from the Nature Conservancy that allows us to reach out to landowners on the ridge to work toward preserving the recreational areas and wildlife habitats.”
After land preservation, the Manada Land Conservancy’s secondary mission is environmental education. The organization offers community lectures on land preservation, native plant initiatives and the importance of pollinators. Hine said programs like guided hiking and kayaking trips help people experience their local land resources firsthand.
“I think we’re unique in the sense that we have the ability to preserve these special areas in a way no other group does,” Hine said. “We connect with the community in a unique way.”
Part of the reason the group started doing outdoor recreation programs, in fact, is to help link people with their local natural resources.
“They can connect with us to realize we’re doing something to keep these resources great,” Hine said. “We’re pulling people into the things they already love about their communities.”
For details about upcoming events and more information about Manada Land Conservancy’s preservation efforts, visit www.manada.org
Upcoming Events At Manada Land Conservancy
April 21 – Plant trees in a previously flooded area along the Swatara Creek with volunteers from Troegs Independent Brewing.
Native Plants & Pollinators Lecture
April 27 – Join nationally recognized plant gurus Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke to learn about native plants, pollinators and wildlife.
Spring Native Plant Sale
April 29 – Fill your yard with native flora from the annual plant sale in Boro Park, Hummelstown.
Music Over the Mountains
Sept. 24 – Enjoy BBQ and local bluegrass music at this annual benefit in Grantville.