Friday, September 26, 2014

EPA Awards Excellence In Site Reuse Award To Lehigh Gap Nature Center

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin Friday presented the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and its Executive Director Dan Kunkle with a 2014 Excellence in Site Reuse Award.
The EPA Regional award recognizes the work that led to the redevelopment of a major portion of the Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site into a wildlife preserve and habitat, promoting conservation, education and research.
“The Lehigh Gap Nature Center, under the leadership of Dan Kunkle, has worked tirelessly to achieve the ultimate environmental goal of turning a formerly contaminated site back to nature,” said EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “I commend them for their bold vision, dedication and success in creating a place that the community can enjoy for generations. EPA strongly supports the innovative and beneficial reuse of sites, such as Palmerton, as a key component for protecting people’s health and our environment.”
The nature preserve and habitat consists of a 2.5 mile stretch on the Kittatinny Ridge between the Appalachian Trail and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail, which parallel each other, then intersect at Lehigh Gap near the Nature Center’s Osprey House.
Since 2002, property owned by the Lehigh Gap Nature Center has been transformed from a barren landscape into valuable habitat for resident species, and a corridor and stopover site for migratory species, especially raptors and Neotropical songbirds.
This habitat was created by the re-vegetation and reforestation of the Palmerton site with native warm season grasses and 13,000 trees, including 4,000 of the nearly extinct American Chestnut tree.
EPA’s cleanup decision to use this approach was influenced by the Center’s vision and its cooperation with parties potentially responsible for the cleanup of 750 acres on Blue Mountain.
The wildlife habitat is a place for research carried out by center staff and volunteers in partnership with local colleges and universities.
The Center is an outdoor classroom for many local educational programs.  In addition, people use the area for recreational activities including hiking, wildlife watching, and photography.
Collaboration between the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, EPA, the Department of Environmental Protection, the potentially responsible parties, local and other partners has created a valuable reuse of the site with both ecological and community benefits.
EPA established the Excellence in Site Reuse award to recognize those who have created extraordinary results in revitalizing and reusing formerly contaminated sites.
For more information, visit the Lehigh Gap Nature Center website and EPA’s Palmerton Superfund Site webpage.

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