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 February 08, 2017 - Dauphin County Commissioners unveil new 411-acre Detweiler Park in Middle Paxton Township

Dauphin County Commissioners unveil new 411-acre Detweiler Park in Middle

 Paxton Township

Visitors can explore more than nine miles of trails through various habitats 

HARRISBURG, PA (February 8, 2017) – The Dauphin County Commissioners today thanked the Detweiler family for their generosity in deeding 411 acres in Middle Paxton Township for what will be the largest of the county’s eight parks and benefit generations to come.

The family, which once operated the Harrisburg Telegraph, WHP and Stackpole Books, has owned the land for four generations and had long hoped it could be preserved. Late last year Susan Detweiler, Frances Detweiler Granatino and Esme Detweiler Freedman approved the combined gift and sale to the county.

“This board wants to thank the Detweiler family for providing the county with this wonderful property that is a true outdoor treasure, featuring fields, forests and fishing,’’ said board Chairman Jeff Haste. “As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I’m excited at the recreational opportunities Detweiler Park will provide our residents now and in the future.’’

“My family has lived there for almost a century and it’s a beautiful piece of land that my grandfather and great grandfather wanted to preserve,’’ said John Elder Stackpole Detweiler, Susan Detweiler’s son. “They were big believers in the State of Pennsylvania and they would be very happy to know this land is going to the people of Dauphin County.’’

The Detweilers donated $897,500 of the land’s $2.4 million purchase price to the county. The remaining money came from an $887,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $607,500 in county gaming grant money from Hollywood Casino at Penn National.

The property, which includes a farmhouse, nine miles of walking trails and a fish hatchery maintained by the Dauphin County Anglers and Conservation Club on Clark’s Creek, which borders the park’s western edge. This summer, temporary parking and an entrance to the trails will be available at the Dauphin County Conservation District’s headquarters, 1415 Peters Mountain Road.

Public meetings will be held this year to get input for a master plan on what features should be developed, including a new parking area, fields for sporting events and potentially converting the farmhouse to a nature center.

“As Dauphin County continues to grow, it is vital that we take opportunities like this to preserve our open space,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Today’s announcement also underscores the importance of continuing the revenue sharing program with the state’s casinos.’’

Last year the state Supreme Court invalidated the revenue-sharing program following a challenge by the owner of the Mount Airy Casino & Resort in Monroe County. The commissioners have called on state lawmakers to find a legislative fix and have also reached an agreement with Hollywood Casino to fund at least half of 2017s local funding pending a permanent solution. Should additional time be needed, the agreement may be extended for all of 2017.

A majority of money is used to help first responders get needed equipment enlarge or build new fire or municipal facilities, or pay off debt. Other grants are used for improving local infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems. In all cases, these grants mean local taxpayers don’t have to shoulder the cost for these vital needs that improve the safety and livability of their communities.

Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said Detweiler Park benefits the county on multiple levels and joined with his fellow board members in thanking the Detweiler family. 

“This park will offer residents a range of outdoor opportunities, from fishing to enjoying nature to playing sports on the fields that will eventually be built,’’ Hartwick said. “This kind of space also helps with our overall economic development because businesses want to come to communities that have a lot to offer employees and their families.’’

In addition to saving green space through parks, the Dauphin County Commissioners continue to protect farms through the Farmland Preservation Program. The program uses a mix of state, federal and county funds to buy development rights and ensure the land will continue for agriculture use.

Since 1992, when Dauphin County began purchasing easements, the county has preserved 16,512 acres on 168 farms in 13 municipalities.

For more information about Detweiler Park, go to www.dauphincounty.org/detweilerpark. 

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About the Detweilers

The land that will become Detweiler Park has been in the Detweiler/Stackpole family for four generations.

Gen. Edward J. Stackpole Jr., who at one time owned the Harrisburg Telegraph daily newspaper, bought the property eight decades ago. The well-known media family also once owned Stackpole Books and Commonwealth Communications, which operated the WHP television and radio stations.

In 1943, his daughter, Mary Frances "Frankie" Stackpole married Meade D. Detweiler III and they built a modest home on land adjacent to her mother and father's home.

An avid conservationist, Meade Detweiler worked diligently to improve tree health, attract wildlife, create a sustainable ecosystem and maintain walking trails on the property that the family enjoyed on a daily basis.

A 1993 letter found in Meade Detweiler’s files states simply his vision for the future of this land: "The property should be an area where habitats are preserved and managed in perpetuity for wildlife based on sound ecological principles that demonstrate a strong land ethic..."

On Dec. 30, 2016, his heirs, Susan Detweiler, wife of the late M. David Detweiler IV; Frances Detweiler Granatino; and Esme Detweiler Freedman fulfilled that vision through a combination donation and sale of the property to Dauphin County.

Contact: arichards@dauphinc.org
Category: Dauphin County
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