Land deal protects Cove Mountain from development

MARYSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — A Perry County mountain that was once eyed heavily by residential developers will now become a nature preserve.

In a deal finalized Monday, The Nature Conservancy purchased a 353-acre parcel of property that blankets a highly visible section of Cove Mountain. The vast, undeveloped forested land lies within the borders of Marysville and Rye and Penn townships.

“It is classic deciduous forest habitat,” said Josh Parrish, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands program in Pennsylvania. “The way we paid for it was through generous donations from private individuals from foundations and then a grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.”

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According to Parrish, the conservancy made an offer on the mountain property in 2014. Landowners accepted and gave the non-profit group some time to raise funds for the transaction.

“They were conservation-minded,” added Parrish, “so they did somewhat of a bargain sale for us.”

Included with the $378,000 price tag is a conservation easement which prohibits any future development. While neighboring mountains on both the east and west shores of the Susquehanna River have become increasingly populated with homes and cell phone towers, Cove Mountain will stay natural in perpetuity.

“We really want this to be our keystone or flagship preserve in central Pennsylvania,” said Parrish. “The property has numerous logging roads and trails that we will mark and have open to the public for hiking, for hunting, for passive recreation.”

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Parrish says when Cove Mountain Preserve opens to the public in the fall, it will mark another step toward the conservancy’s mission of protecting land located within the Kittatinny Ridge Corridor. The ridge, also known as Blue or North Mountain, spans 185 miles from the Mason-Dixon line through 11 Pennsylvania counties including Berks, Lebanon, Dauphin and Perry. The mountainous region is nationally recognized as part of the greater Atlantic Flyway, an important migratory route for several species of birds-of-prey.

Parrish says the preserve includes the portion of Cove Mountain that is most visible when viewed from the east shore of the Susquehanna in northern Harrisburg and along Routes 22/322 through Dauphin. The property itself extends from Routes 11/15 on the west shore “about a mile back the mountain,” adds Parrish. He expects the conservancy will eventually be able to mark and map about 10 miles of hiking trails through the preserve.

According to Parrish, the preserved property also falls within the Susquehanna water gaps, offers scenic views of the historic Rockville Bridge and is home to the endangered Allegheny woodrat.

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