Tiny village pops up in Midstate state park

NEWPORT, Pa. (WHTM) – Visitors to a Perry County park recently discovered a community in the trees. They hope the new residents decide to stick around.

You never know what you’ll find in the woods.

Nine-year-old Teagan Trout spent Sunday searching with his brother and sister.

“We wanted to come find them,” Constance Frownfelter, Teagan’s grandmother, said.

In the trees of Little Buffalo State Park sits a village.

“This is the first I’ve ever experienced anything like that,” said Maryanne Olley of Harrisburg. “Each one that I’ve seen is a little different than the other.”

They’re easy to miss and even harder to find the occupants.

“I just picture these tiny little elf-like beings who are, like, walking around,” Olley said.

“Like a Smurf,” Teagan explained.

The small structures built into the trunks around the forest are gnome homes.

“I don’t know if it was a gnome or not,” Teagan said after checking in one of the dwellings. “It had red eyes on it. I don’t think it was a gnome. I think it was a monster.”

The homes are inconspicuous; if you don’t see the doors covering the gaps at the base of the trees, you’ll never know they’re there.

“But they’re here,” Steve Hoke said of the inhabitants. “I can feel it.”

Hoke showed us around the village; he’s the builder. “I built them for the gnomes,” he said.

Visitors modify them, adding furniture or coins. Hoke loves that.

“What we’re looking to happen is happening,” he said. “So it’s great.”

Steve is a retired prison counselor. Every day until two years ago, he was around people who didn’t get the simple pleasure of walking in the woods.

He found the idea online to get families outside together, interacting not just with nature, but with their family members, too.

“Obviously, it’s working,” Hoke said, “because I see people everywhere.”

Hoke said he did get permission from the park before building the houses, adding that he’ll be maintaining them himself.

So far there are 26 homes in this development, but Hoke is not done yet. He has contracts for another four already.

“You come out next year,” he said, “you’ll see more.”

Here comes the neighborhood.

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