News

Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in danger of closing

Written by Cati Keith/Lebanon Daily News | Feb 26, 2016 1:08 PM
middle_creek_wildlife.jpg

A volunteer holds a Canada Goose at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area where state officials took part in a goose banding event in this file photo from Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area could soon be forced to close due to funding.(Photo: Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)

(Undated) -- Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, a popular destination along the Lebanon and Lancaster County's border, could be closed because of funding.

The management area was built and opened in 1973 by the Game Commission with the help of state taxpayer money and also funds from the Game Commission itself.

The original purpose of Middle Creek was to provide a sanctuary for several types of waterfowl species.

To this day, the management area is still the home of birds such as Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Tundra Swans and other types of wildlife.

Many birdwatchers and nature lovers flock to Middle Creek to see the wildlife, walk the hiking trails and enjoy other outdoor activities.

The management area is a 6,254-acre complex of woods, ponds, managed fields and a 500-acre lake in Kleinfeltersville.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission revealed the possibility of closing Middle Creek to the General Assembly Wednesday according to Lancaster Online.

R. Matthew Hough, the Game Commission's executive director, told the House Game and Fisheries Committee the lack of funds is related to the legislature not allowing hunting license fees to be increased.

"We really don't want to make any cuts there if at all possible. It's a popular and highly-used facility. But future budget projections and the uncertainty of whether a license fee increase will be approved demand we explore such options," said Travis Lau, the Game Commission's spokesman, told Lancaster online.

The hunting licenses are one of the main ways the management area receives funds. If there is no increase of fees for the licenses, Middle Creek will not have the funds to keep its programs going.

In the late 1990s, Middle Creek was in a similar situation before where it saw a lack of funding and was in danger of closing. Luckily it was saved by the 1999 hunting license increase, which has also been the last increase.

"We have been operating on a budget from 1999. Times have changed, and there are expenses that have been added since then," said Al Keith, Middle Creek Visitor Center attendant.

For Middle Creek to avoid being closed again due to financial reasons, the state legislature will need to allow the hunting license fees to be increased.

Keith said that even though the decision to close the park has not been made yet, has already had to make cuts in order to keep the management area running.

These cuts include letting go several part-time workers or not filling positions when workers retire.

"Wildlife is our primary concern," said Keith. "Everything else is second."

Middle Creek's visitor center is open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

This article is part of a content-sharing agreement between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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