November 7, 1996.Vol. 26 No. 12

From the Trustee Docket

Leases will help build
regional nature center

By Alan Janesch
Public Information

The Board of Trustees approved two $1-a-year property leases that will allow the creation of a regional nature center in a wetlands area known as the Millbrook Marsh and expanded historical exhibits at the Centre Furnace Mansion near the University Park Campus.

For the nature center, Penn State will lease a 63.2-acre property near the interchange of the Mount Nittany Expressway (Route 322) and East College Avenue, east of Puddintown Road, to the Centre Region Recreation Authority (CRRA). For the expanded historical exhibits, Penn State will lease a 4.8-acre parcel at Porter Road and East College Avenue to the Centre County Historical Society, which operates the Center Furnace Mansion.

Both leases could run as long as 50 years -- the terms of the agreements are for 35 years, with three successive five-year renewal options.

"The agreements make it possible to give the Penn State community and surrounding communities an easily accessible nature education center whose story will focus on water, the Millbrook Marsh and the Spring Creek watershed, and also expand and enhance a well-known historical site closely associated with the birth of Penn State," said Robert Finley, assistant to the senior associate vice president for finance and business.

"The nature center and the mansion will be two key points of interest along a corridor park system that will follow our area's waterways, possibly becoming linked with a network of biking and hiking paths."

CRRA and the Centre Region Council of Governments, along with representatives of the ClearWater Conservancy and the State College Area School District, have been working closely with Penn State's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center to develop complementary programs and explore staffing possibilities and exhibit ideas. Planned activities include operating CRRA parks programs at the nature center, setting up permanent displays that highlight the relationship between the Spring Creek watershed and the Chesapeake Bay, and building boardwalks that give people a closer but unobtrusive look at the conditions in Slab Cabin Run and Thompson Run. Biking and hiking paths would link the site to other parts of the proposed corridor park.

The area is the site of the first charcoal-furnace iron-making in Centre County. The historical society hopes to build a new facility to house its historic collections and an educational center, leaving the mansion free to function solely as a historic house. The mansion now houses some historical and educational exhibits, but a new facility would make larger exhibits possible.

The mansion and the furnace itself represent a historic link to the beginnings of Penn State. In 1855, when the state agricultural society was looking for a site for an agricultural school, the owners of the Centre Furnace iron-making operation offered land and other support for the agricultural school that eventually became Penn State.

The 63.2-acre parcel that will be leased to CRRA is composed of a 12.4-acre parcel known as "Farm 12," which includes a residence, a main barn, a horse barn and several outbuildings, and a 50.8-acre parcel previously owned by but recently given to the University by Clover Highlands Associates, State College. The larger parcel makes up most of Millbrook Marsh.

The buildings on the smaller parcel are aging and the property is not contiguous to any other Penn State property.

The 4.8-acre parcel that will be leased to the historical society consists of a one-acre parcel now used by the society for parking under a license agreement and an additional 3.8-acre parcel west of Porter Road that includes the Centre Furnace Stack. Anticipated improvements include enhancements to the historical display of the stack and other improvements to the entranceway.

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Last updated at 8:22AM on November 6, 1996.