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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter


No. 93 April 1, 2009



Spring comes into Mt. Gretna not with a grand, sweeping entrance, but oDale's snowdropsn tiptoes. Small steps, like Linda Wilson's sighting in mid-March of the season's first robin near her home on Princeton Avenue. Or photographer Dale Grundon's encounter (right)  with the first snowdrops. Or David Lillenstein's report, enroute from his home in Timber Bridge, of bald eagles gathering along the lake.

Indeed, the news at this time of year tends to arrive in tiny kaleidoscopic clumps near the end of the month, providing for readers of this community newsletter the pleasurable pursuit of striving to find patterns that give clues to Mt. Gretna's indefinable essence. Yet although this month's mosaic, blending disparate notes and musings may hint at what makes this town like no other, the answer remains as elusive as ever.

Spring's official ambassador--that robin Linda spotted--arrived just as Bill Care's team were putting away (they hope) their snow plows for the season. It was, as winters go, a mild one, yet with 18 separate "snow events." That includes, we suppose, anything that descends in the form of frozen crystals of one sort or another and requires a coating of road salt. Salt, it turns out, was costly this year, jumping 56% in price and furrowing the brows of those who must cope with municipal budgets.

More startling, however, at least for those making their first re-entry into Mt. Gretna since last fall, was the sight they beheld from atop Pinch Road. The dramatically altered view, now with 14,000 fewer trees following harvesting operations in the wake of repeated attacks by gypsy moths and drought, will take years to restore. But, with a spirit that embodies Lao Tzu's reminder that "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step," volunteers will assemble this month to begin replanting the forest. (See "Numbers," below.) And to protect trees that remain, aerial spraying will resume later this month or in early May. (Click here to find the PDF spray block maps, lower right.)

Another surprise came with the news last month that about four miles from Mt. Gretna, developers from Montgomery County are planning to build a year-round water park, complete with a 250-room hotel, 645 homes and rental cottages, and a main street of shops and stores in what they'll call "The Preserve at Historic Cornwall Village." Newspaper accounts say the development, at the former open pit iron ore mine around Burd Coleman Village, Miners Village and the Iron Valley golf course, could begin in about three years. Cornwall Borough officials expect to hold public hearings in May. (For an aerial view of the area surrounding this proposed development, click here.)

Closer to home, Mt. Gretnans are getting ready for May 23 and the official launch of another summer season.

It'll begin with the sixth annual Mt. Gretna Triathlon, an event that raises funds for research into a neuromuscular disease that crippled the race's organizer, Chris Kaag, a young ex-marine whose life has since become a testament to courage and determination. That event attracts about 600 competitors from across the nation who swim, cycle and run the course starting shortly after 8 a.m. with the final contestants crossing the finish line sometime before noon. (If you'd like to volunteer for set-up events the day before or during the race,  click here.)

Also in store that day will be another community porch sale, organized in the Campmeeting by Bruce Gettle and in the Chautauqua by Barney Myer. That event usually attracts several hundred bargain hunters into town for the day and includes a book sale at the library.

Capping it all, around 4 p.m. will be the grand Summer Premiere -- truly the social event of the year -- where people gather to greet friends not seen since last fall. As usual, the planners have an imaginative gala in store. It will include opportunities to bid on everything from a private wine-and-chocolate tasting party hosted by chocolate expert Dr. Jeff Hurst (who also happens to be a Mt. Gretna resident) to a photography session for children by one of the area's most gifted photographers (who happens to be the daughter of Carol Morgan, another Mt. Gretnan.)

The Premier, an Arts Council gala that not only marks the official start of the season, also helps fund the Summer Calendar of Events -- an essential reference without which life for most Mt. Gretnans would surely come to an abrupt halt.

Also comes word that we'll have another University for a Day session here June 27. The hope is that holding it on a Saturday will allow more people who work during the week to attend. Peggy O'Neil expects the 60 available tickets will soon be sold after the reservations phone line (964-1830) opens next month. Peggy also says that popular theologian Bishop John Shelby Spong will return this year for a series of three lectures, plus a dinner, during the period May 31-June 4.

And yes, there will be chess lessons this year, given at the Hall of Philosophy on Tuesday afternoons by Scottish chess master John Dempsey.
Click here to inquire about private and individual chess lessons, or call Gail Babic at (717) 450-5115.

Finally Chautauqua Historical Marker Along Route 117amid the assorted notes landing in our midst this month are bright messages like the one from Cheryl Burke, who reports that a new Website posts little-known details behind that road sign that went up along Route 117 several years ago.

Another inspired note comes from a man who makes his passion a pleasure for others as well: Dick Brown, who lives at 980 Mine Road, is a plant expert with a gift for sharing. He's inviting everyone to a 'native plant dig' at his home April 25. Come with your own tools at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. and he'll show you where to dig plants to take back home. And if you have plants of your own that you'd like to share with others, he'll have an exchange table set up. (Details: 964-3006, or
click here to drop him an e-mail note.)

So do random notes such as these reveal the essence of Mt. Gretna? No, not by a long shot. But they give hints. It is as the composer Aaron Copeland once replied in response to a questioner who asked if there was meaning to music. "My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what that meaning is?' My answer tothat would be, 'No.'"


In Other News:


Nobody knows what folks around here like to eat better than those Mt. Gretna Fire Company volunteers.

That's why they're cooking up another pasta feast April 18. It's a pay-what-you-want, eat-all-you-want extravaganza.

It'll include Chef-on-the-Go Becky Briody's incomparable secret sauce and meatballs. Plus salads, Italian breads, drinks and desserts.

Nothing beats it, say those who've come before. It's a 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. delight that'll attract friends and neighbors, making it more than simply another incomparable Saturday night dinner and the most popular place in town.

Indeed, by stuffing a little extra in the "collection boot" this month, your donation in
Lake workers have a date with historytimes like these will go a long, long way to provide much-needed support to the folks who protect our property and save our lives.

[] If you ever worked at Mt. Gretna's lake, Mt. Gretna's Historical Society has a program this summer you'll want to know about. Chautauqua's Friday evening series will host a reunion of former lake and beach employees who'll share their memories. Society president Fred Buch is now collecting names, addresses and telephone numbers of former employees. Click here to send him an e-mail or call toll free, 800-242-3901.

[] Organic food deliveries to Mt. Gretna will be a reality this summer. Weekly shipments will start in May, says Susan Wood, who helped organize a small group of local customers, enough to justify farm fresh deliveries from a cooperative made up of about 40 (mostly Amish) farmers in Lancaster County. "If you're interested in signing up, now's the time" says Susan. To save on costs during the 25-week season, some Mt. Gretna families are splitting their vegetable or fruit shares with neighbors, she says. For details, click here to drop a note to Susan, or call her at 964-3069.
[] Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington, marveling over "how well received" her imaginative offerings were last summer, is bringing a fresh lineup of new products this year - many with "green," eco-friendly themes. She'll display them in a sneak preview for Mt. Gretnans May 22, a Friday night before the season officially opens on Saturday. "We listened to everybody's suggestions, and we're returning with new things to keep it all fresh," she says.  

[] You won't have to go far to take part in Earth Day April 18. Governor Dick Park's Nature Center has a full agenda in store for youngsters and adults in a program, "Children and the Earth,"that starts at 10 a.m. 
[] Rail trail hikers passing through Mt. Gretna on their way to nearby Quentin are buzzing about that new coffee shop near Alden Place, now a favorite of Mt. Gretnans like Janice Balmer. Located just off the trail, The Buzz features coffee and tea from Mim Enck's and Walter Progner's East Indies Company. Upstairs (in the former Coleman carriage house) is a salon and spa operated by the brother of Chautauqua resident Gordy Keeny.
[] A reader who recalls summers here with her grandparents (Cleo and Elmer Delp) 40 years ago wonders if anyone remembers them or their cottage, called "Buzzards' Roost." Didi Yunginger doesn't know the cottage's exact location, only that it sat on a hill across the street from the general store. "I remember that because I sometimes got in trouble flying down the hill in a wagon," she says.  
[] Mt. Gretnans Madelaine Gray and Susan Wood will lead their "Footprints" team on a hike next month to raise funds for Rails to Trails and Lebanon's Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center. Like to join them on their five-mile hike along the rail trail May 30? Contact Madelaine (964-3118) or Susan (964-3069) for details. The scenic Saturday morning jaunt offers T-shirts, prizes, refreshments and an 'after walk celebration" at photographer Madelaine's Campmeeting cottage and studio.
[] Easter Sunday services begin at 8:30 and 10:00 a.m. April 12 at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church.

[] Looking for something to keep youngsters busy this summer? Governor Dick Park offers four one-day camps June 11 and 26, July 17 and Aug. 6. Another camp, for Summer Explorers, runs July 27-31 and will delve into insects, amphibians and crafts. Click here for details in the park's current newsletter.

[] Did you ever hear of the Depression-era "transient camp" at Mt. Gretna? A Lancaster newspaper cited it in 1934, noting that after the camp had opened, fewer tramps, panhandlers and hobos were seen roaming through Lancaster itself.  Seventy-five years later, that naturally stirs the interest of Mt. Gretna's Historical Society. If you can help shed light on the topic, click here to drop an e-mail to the Society, or call president Fred Buch toll free, 800-242-3901.

[] Naturalist Ron Laughlin leads a plant walk through the wooded trails of Governor Dick Park April 12, checking to see what's blooming early this season. Tom Powers and Richard Light share their insights into frogs and salamanders April 27 in an outdoor adventure that begins at 7 p.m. Click here for details.





2nd  Biggest day of the year if you're a youngster with an empty Easter basket to fill: Saturday, April 4. The hunt for 540 eggs (45 dozen) hidden in Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church's annual Easter egg safari begins at the playground near the Jigger Shop at 11 a.m. sharp.  "Don't be late," say grizzled egg hunt veterans. The whole affair is usually over by 11:05 a.m. Rain date: April 11.
50 Volunteers needed to begin replanting the state game lands atop Pinch Road April 18. Call forester Dave Henry by April 13 to register (610-926-3136, ext. 3686). And bring a shovel, gloves and drinking water. Dave says they'll plant 1,000 oak seedlings on the 53-acre tract, giving it a "jump start" on the long road to recovery.
He expects to complete clean-up work at the site by the end of this month. The operations include grading a road that sawmill trucks used to haul logs out of the forest, and smoothing skid  trails, log landings and other areas. "By summer, we expect it to be a lush green area with plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities," he says. "In a few years, the new growth should be about six feet high."
940 Hours devoted to special training so far this year by five volunteer Mt. Gretna firefighters: Matt Mullins, Nick Serikstad, Joe Shay, and Brad and Tim Yeingst. That extra training, of course, is in addition to answering fire calls that are sometimes life-threatening, processing paperwork and attending to the never-ending chores of fund raising (like the block shoot, coming May 2). And it's another reason why an inescapable, reverberating thought echoes somewhere in the back of our minds whenever we hear them called into action: "Thanks, friends."

50,000 Snow geese spotted so far this winter by the Mt. Gretna Bird Club. But that's just the beginning. Their tallies this year also include a bunch of swans, an eagle sitting on eggs in her nest, and 49 other species -- not counting the two roosters that strolled past the pizza shop one recent morning when bird club officials Sid Hostetter and Evelyn Koppel were having breakfast. (The roosters may not have been part of the club's usual Friday morning sightings, but their sudden appearance has stirred "bird talk" all over town. At last report, one of the roosters had crossed over to the Campmeeting, where, for the first time in years, residents are awakening to cookle-doodle-doos.)  
The bird club meets every week, says Evelyn. "We learn from each other as much as we teach," she says. To join them,
click here and send an e-mail request for details.
Questions Readers Ask
<> Although Mt. Gretna borough posts signs advising owners to clean up after their pets, there are no similar signs in Timber Hills. Why not? 

[] In a perfect world, cleaning up after one's pet would fall under the heading of common sense, requiring neither fines, signs nor ordinances. In an imperfect world, the problem persists. The signs in Mt. Gretna borough do seem to be effective in reminding owners to do their part in promoting a healthier environment for pedestrians, runners, cyclists and children playing outdoors.
South Londonderry Township manager Tom Ernharth says that an appropriate ordinance covering dog owners in Timber Hills is already on the books, but he prefers to avoid signs if they're neither wanted nor needed. Yet if the problem continues, he invites residents to send him a request for signs. Perhaps that won't be necessary. Especially if what is likely a small minority of dog owners respond positively to friendly reminders, plus the power of a good example from fellow dog owners.
<>Richard LeWars was a prominent Mt. Gretna artist in the 1940s through the 1960s, and one of his students may have been an artist named E. Simon. I wonder if any of your readers may be familiar with the work of an "E. Simon."
[] Since Mt. Gretna Newsletter readers include many people now living around the world who were here during that period, it's just possible that someone may  know of art instructor Richard LeWars. If they are also familiar with "E. Simon," we'll ask them to
click here to drop you an e-mail note