City to vote on watershed land sale

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Mayor says only two letters received, but public comment encouraged

CUMBERLAND  — During the Cumberland City Council meeting on Tuesday, the city will review the proposed sales agreement with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for its proposal to buy 3,850 acres of the Evitts Creek Water Company lands surrounding Lakes Koon and Gordon in Bedford County for $4 million.

On Feb. 15, there will be another public hearing and the matter will be voted on by March 1, according to Jeff Repp, city administrator.   

“The council has been continuing a public dialogue on this matter for over three months, welcoming public comment. To date, only two letters have been received on the subject,” said Mayor Brian Grim. “We continue to encourage input from the public on the proposed land sale and will do so until a vote is set.”

During Tuesday’s council meeting, conservancy  officials Michael Knoop, land protection specialist/conservation planning coordinator; Sean Senlon, vice president land conservation; Greg Socha, associate vice president for special projects and forest conservation; and Nick Pinizzotto, associate vice president for watershed conservation, will be on hand to answer any questions.

Previous concerns of the public include the value of the timber that the conservancy could possibly harvest. During the city’s recent public work session, Regis Larkin questioned why the city couldn’t do something similar to Frostburg where it would receive the income from the harvested timber.

“We are in a unique position.  We are a Maryland municipality with our watershed located in Pennsylvania,” said Grim. He went on to explain that Frostburg’s watershed is still within the state.

The conservancy would use sustainable harvest timber techniques on some portions to manage the forest, with the proceeds to support overall management of the property, according to a fact sheet provided by the organization.

Another concern for residents was selling a 380-acre out parcel two miles north of Lake Koon. The land would be sold to private conservation buyers, but subject to conservation easements approved by Evitts Creek Water Co. that would limit development on the property to a maximum of three home sites. The sale of this out parcel would generate revenue that would be applied toward management of the rest of the property.

Recently the conservancy acquired a sale contract with the owner of 1,650 acres adjacent to the Evitts Creek Water Co. property.

“We are currently working to raise funding for that acquisition,” said Knoop. “If the mayor and City Council approve the sale of the water company lands, we could potentially use proceeds from the subsequent sale of the 380-acre out parcel  toward the acquisition and management of the 1,650-acre property.”

The sale of the out parcel would still be subject to approval from both the city and Evitts Creek Water Co.

Should the land be transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for creation of a state park or state forest, approval would not need to be sought from Evitts Creek or the city.

Other concerns addressed by residents include the protection of the watershed and hunting rights. The terms of the sales agreement would include an easement and deed restrictions recorded alongside the deed for Evitts Creek Water Co. to protect Cumberland’s water supply. Water in Lakes Koon and Gordon would remain under the control of Evitts Creek Water Co. and the city.

Evitts Creek Water Co. would have the right to monitor and maintain the lakes, including the lake bottoms. One of the most effective methods to safeguard water quality is to protect the land surrounding an important water source, according to the conservancy fact sheet. This potential sale would help safeguard water quality by ensuring that nearly 4,000 acres around Lakes Koon and Gordon are permanently protected by one of the nation’s most established and trusted conservation organizations, the fact sheet says.

The conservancy use of the property, including sustainable forest management activities, would be governed by a resource management plan.

“The main goal of the conservancy is to ensure that the water quality and the forest health is good. Evitts Creek and the city will have the ability to review and approve the conservancy’s management of property,” said Knoop. “Hunting is available just like it is right now and would be that way forever if the conservancy acquires property.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .