Muncy Park 2017-11-05T18:17:37+00:00

Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail

Muncy Heritage Park sign by Robin Van Auken

Working with Muncy Historical Society, Robin Van Auken helped develop and implement the master plan for the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail. She lead a four-year, public archaeology dig at the Heritage Site, which introduced thousands of visitors to hands-on archaeology.

The Heritage Park also served as an archaeological field school for Lycoming College and engaged individual students from colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and the U.K.
MHS-Logo
She also created the interpretive panel signs for the Heritage Park and Nature Trail, more than a dozen full-color, impact resistant fiberglass and steel structures that inform and educate park visitors.

The Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail was a multi-year plan to develop 11 acres of historical and environmentally significant property into a park and trail to be utilized by all Lycoming County, Pennsylvania residents, as well as tourists and visitors to the Susquehanna River Valley. Located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Muncy is a small town proud of its rural culture and historical heritage. This trail will allow Muncy to showcase the history and natural beauty of Penn Port, a commercial center and residential area that grew out of and around the bustling West Branch Canal industry of the 1800s.

Intellectual Merit

Sponsored by the Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History (MSHMH), the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project involved a variety of organizations including the archaeology, history and art departments of Lycoming College, the archaeology department of Bloomsburg University, the natural sciences and integrated studies department of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, state Department of Protection, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state Fish and Boat Commission, Tiadaghton State Forest, Lycoming County Conservation District, Lycoming County Planning Commission, the National Canal Museum, the Pennsylvania Canal Society and the DCNR-Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

This multi-year project incorporated all aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), social sciences such as anthropology and archaeology, and history, humanities and art. Minority scientists will participate in lead roles.

Broader Impacts

Prior to all structural work and environmental landscaping at the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project, archaeological and historic research were conducted that involved college students during summer field schools, as well as public and private school children (K-12), teachers and volunteers year round.

Public Archaeological excavations were held on the sites of the canal lock tender’s house and well, one of the remaining locks and a portion of the canal wall.

Biologists and forestry experts worked with adult volunteers and students to classify flora and fauna, design and create the nature trail. This research was  used when creating interpretive panels and historic facades.

Interpretive panels describe life and labor along the Pennsylvania Canal and the nature sings feature illustrations that help visitors discover the diversity of plants and wildlife found in the area. A number of benches were placed canal side along the loop. There is a picnic pavilion with kiosks containing exhibits, and parking for the public.

Impact

Northcentral Pennsylvania is primarily a rural, mountainous region and its largest county is Lycoming. With a population of 120,044, Lycoming County includes the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Its county seat, Williamsport, is the birthplace of Little League Baseball and Softball and each year hosts the annual Little League World Series, an international event.

The river lies at the base of the 1,600-foot Bald Eagle Mountains, at the foothills of the Alleghenies and to the north, the land rises in the forest-covered Appalachian Plateau, in places more then 2,000 feet high.

Once known as the “Lumber Capital of the World,” Lycoming County is 90 miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital. More than 70 million people live within 300 miles of the county, and cities within this radius include Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

However, despite its proximity to these major cities, the area’s attractions do not include many educational and recreational opportunities of a historic and discovery nature. The closest science museum is 90 miles away in Harrisburg; the closest art and anthropological museums are 65 miles away at Penn State University, State College.

There are several small historical societies and three museums. The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum showcases that sport’s history and caters primarily to series visitors. The Lycoming County Historical Society has historic museum exhibits and a research library.

The Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project enabled users to produce scholarly research that enhanced the visibility of the region’s professional scientists and historians, and enabled the staff and students of colleges and universities within the region to collaborate with each other, with adult volunteers, school children and the general public.

The Goal

It is the goal of the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail project to stimulate public interest in the study of many scientific disciplines, with archaeology and biology at the forefront. Traditionally, educators use displays, demonstrations, workshops, training in hands-on techniques, site tours and various instructional programs and materials to promote awareness of cultural resources, heritage and environmental preservation. These activities are designed to advance the ethical practice of science and to protect the region’s cultural resources. The public’s and education system’s use of these materials and the visitors to the Muncy Historical Society and its Heritage Park and Nature Trail are a measure of the project’s success.

The strategic impact of the venture was most intense during its six-year development, but now that it is finished, the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail is expected to last and be enjoyed for decades. The fact that the project concentrated on historical realities and the environment means that change will not affect it. The research generated will not become “old news” or dated, the technology will not expire. The information will be conserved and distributed in a variety of ways, print, electronic and digital, ensuring its stability.

Collaboration

Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History is owner of the 11-acre property and spearheaded the project. At their invitation, the venture involved a variety of organizations including the archaeology, history and art departments of Lycoming College, the archaeology department of Bloomsburg University, the natural sciences and integrated studies department of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Susquehanna Greenway River Connections, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, the Humanities Council, the Arts Council, Pennsylvania Department of Protection, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state Fish and Boat Commission, Tiadaghton State Forest, Lycoming County Conservation District, Lycoming County Planning Commission, the National Canal Museum, the Pennsylvania Canal Society, the Northcentral Chapter of the Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology, and the DCNR-Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
The complementary resources of these organizations and the expertise of the scientific volunteers resulted in a unique program and provided access to a varied audience.