HAWTHORN – Before junior reels in his first-ever trout catch, or before a group of lifelong friends decide to wade hip-deep into Red Bank Creek to wet a line, a group of local volunteers make sure there will be fish swimming around worthy of being caught on the opening day of trout season.
If you think all the work begins on opening day, think again.
The Hawthorn Rod and Gun Club started raising trout to stock Red Bank Creek more than 30 years ago, and the process begins anew early in June each year when the local club receives its delivery of “fingerling” trout from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The four-inch long baby fish are brought to the club’s nursery unit along a small stream known as Cherry Run in Hawthorn. The nursery is part of the Fish and Boat Commission’s Cooperative Nursery Program, and is currently the only trout nursery in Clarion County.
The nursery is on the property of Terry Kunselman, and the cement holding tank structure was originally part of the old bottling plant in Hawthorn, and is more than 100 years old.
Kunselman, who has been involved with the club’s trout endeavors since the beginning in the 1980s, said that the four-inch long fingerlings that arrive in June each year develop over 10 months into the 10- to 14-inch trout that are released just prior to trout season each April.
The local club usually receives its fish from a state hatchery in Oswayo, near Coudersport, each year. The club receives 2,000 rainbow trout, with about 50 golden rainbows in the mix.
“The rainbows tolerate our water better,” Kunselman said, noting that brook trout usually don’t fare as well.
It takes just about 1 ton of food to feed the fish each year, at a cost of right around $2,000 for the club. The club also has costs of about $500 per year for the electricity to run the aerators in the tanks.
The costs are paid for by the club’s annual Trout Derby, which includes the sale of tickets and buttons, and awards prizes for lucky anglers who reel in the tagged fish. [For more on the Trout Derby, see the story in the “Trout and Turkey” special section included with today’s Leader-Vindicator.]
On a good year — and Kunselman said this has been a good year — the club releases about 1,900 fish into Red Bank Creek between the Mayport and Oak Ridge bridges in the days prior to the opening of trout season, which this year is this Saturday, April 13.
Kunselman said this year and last year have been among the club’s best ever for raising fish, unlike the effort two years ago which resulted in all the fish dying from a parasite.
“When the fish are sick and have a parasite, I know it,” Kunselman said.
It all pretty much has to do with the weather.
“It depends on the summer, and how warm it gets,” Kunselman said, noting that in hot, dry years, the water coming in from Cherry Run warms up too much for the fish, which increases the chances of disease and parasites.
The club’s facility is inspected three times a year by the state, Kunselman said, adding that they look at the water quality, temperature, oxygen levels, acidity and more. It was noted that the fish belong to the Fish and Boat Commission, and the club must stock them in areas open to the public.
When it gets too hot, Kunselman explained that he has to hold back on feeding the fish as much because it can stress them out. Sometimes he scales back from two feedings a day to just one; while at other times when it gets really hot, he may hold off on feeding altogether for days.
Extreme cold temperatures in the winter can also create problems for the nursery. Kunselman said that the tanks need to be monitored to make sure they don’t freeze up in places that prevent water from flowing in and out. When the tanks clog with ice or even sometimes with fallen leaves, the tanks can flood.
“It’s a fight sometimes to keep the water flowing,” he said.
Kunselman said that the Hawthorn nursery is one of the smaller operations in the state, with some other ones raising tens of thousands of fish each year.
“We don’t have the water to do that,” he said of the local nursery, noting that it is about at its limit with 2,000 fish.
That smaller scale allows the Hawthorn group to raise fish larger than those at many of the other operations, he said.
“We usually have the biggest fish they’ve seen,” he said.
Once fully grown and ready to be stocked in the stream, Kunselman said club members use nets to bring the trout from the tanks into portable tanks on trailers. The portable tanks are old milk tanks from local dairies.
The fish are taken to spots near the Hawthorn, Mayport and Oak Ridge bridges for release into Red Bank Creek. Kunselman said that some of the fish will stay close to where they are deposited, while others will swim a distance. Over the years, tagged fish have been caught as far upstream as Heathville in Jefferson County, and as far downstream as the dam area in New Bethlehem.
Kunselman said the club also stocks fish in the small Pine Run, but no longer places any tagged fish in that tributary. He said it is primarily designed as a fishing area for children.
“That leaves a lot more space there for the kids to fish,” he said of the decision to no longer stock tagged fish in Pine Run.
As for this year’s opening day activities, Kunselman said the club will stock the stream on Wednesday and Thursday, with tickets for the Trout Derby still on sale at area businesses and from club members. For full details, see the Trout Derby story in the Trout & Turkey special section included in today’s L-V.
STRATTANVILLE – “Embrace who you are. You are uniquely made, beautiful and can excel in anything you want to do.”
That’s the inspirational message state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) left last Wednesday for nearly 20 sixth-grade girls at Clarion-Limestone Elementary School, where she served as a guest speaker for the school’s Ruling Our Experiences (ROX) program.
In its premier year at C-L Elementary, ROX is a research-based empowerment program for girls in grades 5-12 that covers topics from self-exploration and goal setting to empathy and conflict resolution and positive communication skills to social media, friendships, and verbal and physical self-defense.
“This is the first year that we are implementing the ROX curriculum so there have been some bumps and growing pains, but it has been a very positive experience overall,” C-L Elementary principal Kristie Taylor said, explaining that the 18 girls in the ROX program meet with a facilitator for 25 to 30 minutes once a week from October to May. “Our girls need this. They need an opportunity to talk about issues that they are struggling to navigate and be given tools and permission to be who they are.”
As part of the ROX curriculum, Taylor noted, the school was required to invite at least one guest speaker to address the students during the year.
“We wanted to invite Donna Oberlander because of her local connections, and because she is a positive role model as a trail-blazer and decision-maker,” Taylor said.
Oberlander began by highlighting her own life’s journey from an area elementary student participating in a mock presidential election, to a political science major at Clarion University, to a campaign worker for then state Rep. Fred McIlhattan, and then a Clarion County Commissioner, before being elected to her current position as state representative for the 63rd District. She told the students that all along the way her success depended on learning.
“I learned and learned some more,” she said. “Hard work and continuing to learn were all parts of my journey.”
After her introductory remarks, Oberlander spent time answering questions posed by the sixth-graders.
In response to a question whether she always knew what she wanted to be, Oberlander said that originally she had wanted to be an attorney. Although she ultimately made the decision not to become a lawyer, she said she still struggled with what she should do.
After her election to the state House, however, Oberlander said she realized that she didn’t need to be a lawyer because as a representative she is now making laws.
Another student asked how Oberlander chose her career.
“I think my career chose me. I was really into politics and at the right place at the right time,” Oberlander said, explaining that she was able to make the necessary connections and her early interest in politics got her involved in political campaigns in college.
“Sometimes what you think your dream is may change a little,” she continued, urging the young girls not to be afraid to take new opportunities as they arise. “But in every job you do, give it your best, learn and be open to other things that may happen.”
When asked to explain her job, Oberlander said that she is one of 203 state representatives in Harrisburg. Elected to serve the 63,000 to 65,000 constituents of the 63rd District — which includes Clarion County and parts of Armstrong and Forest counties — her responsibilities not only include enacting, repealing and writing laws, but also helping residents “cut red tape,” fix problems and address issues.
Most recently, Oberlander was appointed as policy chairman for the Republican Caucus. She is the first woman to hold such a position in the history of Pennsylvania.
“We [women] are blazing trails, and I love being able to do that,” she said, noting that when she was first elected to leadership as the secretary, it marked the first time the state had ever had two women leaders in a caucus at the same time. “It’s a really fun, new part of my job.”
In fact, she told the students, there are currently 51 women in the House of Representatives — the largest number of women the House has ever had.
“It’s funny because there’s this impression that female legislators only focus on female issues,” Oberlander said. “I represent 65,000 people. It’s my desire to represent all of them and all their issues; not just women’s issues or men’s issues, but our issues.”
Oberlander noted in response to another question that the primary inspiration for her job stems from being born and raised in Clarion County and feeling like the people she represents are like her.
“I want to do what’s best for the people I represent so they have the opportunity to stay here and build a family and work here,” she said. “It’s also important to me that my children have those opportunities.”
NEW BETHLEHEM – State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) and Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Franklin) recently met with Redbank Valley School District superintendent Dr. John Mastillo and members of the school board’s legislative committee.
District leadership welcomed the congressional leaders to a round table discussion of the challenges facing the school district on April 4.
Board members explained that budgetary projections show that the district will run out of funds to operate within the next five years, even if taxes are raised to the state allowable maximum amount each year. The district does not qualify this year for exceptions to that state limit and was unable to get taxpayers to approve a larger tax increase in a 2018 ballot referendum.
Oberlander and Hutchinson were given statistics showing that Redbank Valley has the lowest local tax revenue per student in Clarion County, trailing the next lowest district in the county by more than $1,000 per student per year. This amounts to more than a $1 million less in local tax revenue each year.
Mastillo presented the local politicians with data demonstrating Redbank Valley’s reduced expenses. The district has reduced staffing, closed an elementary school and spends $327 less per student each year than other Clarion County schools. Further cost cuts would be even more painful, officials said.
After listening to the presentation and clarifying different points, the legislators agreed that the district’s situation is unique, but other schools may find themselves in similar circumstances in the near future. They plan to connect Mastillo with contacts at the state Department of Education to look into potential solutions at Redbank Valley.
Oberlander and Hutchinson relayed that they will continue to champion the cause of rural school districts, as urban legislators seek to channel more funding to city schools and more affluent suburban areas. Some state money is being channeled to wealthier districts with growing student numbers.
SLIGO – With Sligo Borough’s elimination of contracted police coverage for 10 hours per week by the New Bethlehem Police Department for budget reasons, borough officials continue to look for alternative methods of code enforcement.
Pennsylvania State Police have increased activity in Sligo Borough, but state troopers are not permitted to enforce local ordinances, only state laws.
“I’ll tell you what, I’d even do it for free just because I’m tired of dealing with it,” said Sligo Mayor Jeremy Shumaker at the council’s April meeting. “I’m serious, because it’s only going to take a few phone calls or going to talk with people. If it’s not corrected then it’s out of my hands and it goes to the magistrate for prosecution.”
Council reviewed another alternative at its February meeting. State Constable Kyle Klein outlined the types of enforcement he could provide. When asked about the cost of such service, Klein said it would be at a minimum rate of $15 an hour. Klein was elected constable for Sligo Borough and took the required training to become a state constable. He is one of three constables in Clarion County.
Borough Secretary Janey Corle reported that she talked with Tom Watcher at Knox Law, the borough’s backup solicitor, regarding constables and code enforcement officers. Watcher indicated some borough ordinances may need amendments to specify who the council appoints as enforcement officers.
“According to Knox Law, anybody can be appointed a code enforcement officer,” said Corle. “I mentioned to him that we were thinking about a constable and he said you could do that, but why would you want to pay someone $15 an hour when you could pay them $10 an hour if you’re not going to be needing it all of the time?”
After additional discussion, the council approved an ordinance that would allow the appointment of a code enforcement officer for all ordinances. Shumaker is expected to be appointed in May until the end of the year after the ordinance is approved.
One council member noted the borough may be just kicking the problem down the road.
“In all seriousness, I would do it until the end of the year to see what all it entails and what it is like,” said Shumaker. “It’s not in our budget to pay someone.”
New Member Appointed
Kerry Graham was selected to fill the unexpired term of George Weaver on Sligo Borough Council at the group’s April meeting.
Graham will serve until the end of December and anticipates a write-in campaign to be placed on the ballot for a full term.
Former council member Don Lawrence also volunteered for the post but was earlier selected for the Sligo Borough Authority.
Shumaker swore in Graham into office.
The council voted by resolution to resubmit for the third time a multi-modal transportation fund grant for the replacement of the Sligo footbridge to Sligo Elementary School and the Union COG Pool Park.
The total cost was $143,000 and Sligo requested $100,100, with the local share at $42,900.
“I didn’t expect to get selected on the first round, but to see it also rejected for the second phase is painful,” said councilman Wayne Meier. “This is something we need for safety.”
A letter to both state Rep. Donna Oberlander and state Sen. Scott Hutchinson was authorized to remind them “we still live down here.” The council also agreed to make an appointment to visit with Oberlander.
• A letter was sent to Comcast expressing the council’s disappointment with a new franchise agreement that did not include free Internet for the borough. The Sligo Recreation Center is a designated emergency operation center and emergency shelter. A Comcast representative told the borough that it doesn’t matter about the status of the recreation center. If the council does not sign the agreement, the existing franchise agreement would continue. However, Comcast still plans to cancel the borough’s free Internet service at some point. Members said they would wait until at least July, putting it off as long as they can.
• “The Rec Center has been busy in terms of basketball and those sorts of things,” said councilman Chuck Marsh, who added that the COG Pool is advertising for lifeguards. The Presbyterian Church has scheduled an Easter Egg Hunt at the park on the Saturday before Easter at 11 .a.m.
“We’re also going to be putting some new electrical lines and water lines at the COG Pool Park,” Marsh said. “The Presbyterian Church is also funding some of the installation. We are also going to straighten one of the pavilions. Anyone is welcome to help us out.”
• Shale will be applied by Eric Cicciarelli on Front Street Extension to take care of the mud problem and prepare the lower end of the road for proposed pavement.
• The Sligo Borough Authority did not meet due to a lack of quorum.
NEW BETHLEHEM – One story and three special sections that appeared in The Leader-Vindicator last year were recently announced as winners of Keystone Press Awards.
The statewide awards were announced over the weekend by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, based in Harrisburg.
Josh Walzak, editor of The Leader-Vindicator, won first place for weekly publications in the Feature Story category for his article, “Local soldier killed near the end of World War I,” a story that looked at the life and death of Henry Barnett Crawford, who was killed in action about a month before the end of World War I.
The story appeared in the Hometown Heroes: Salute to Veterans special section in the Nov. 14-15 issue of The Leader-Vindicator.
The award was the seventh first place Keystone Press Award for Walzak during his 21 years at The L-V. He has also received four second place awards and one honorable mention over the years.
Second place awards this year also went to the Serving Our Country special section which appeared in The L-V last November, as well as the Community of Giving special section which appeared in The L-V in December.
Both were joint publications of The Courier-Express and Tri-County Sunday, which also appeared in The Leader-Vindicator and Jeffersonian Democrat in Brookville. Credits were given to editors from each of the papers, including David Sullens, Joy Norwood, Josh Walzak and Julie Noal.
The Serving Our County section won second place in the Division IV Special Project category, while the Community of Giving section won second place in the Division IV Niche Publication category.
Finally, the Kickoff 2018 high school football magazine, which was released by The L-V and its sister newspapers last September, received an honorable mention in the Division IV Special Project category.
Credits for the magazine went to Chris Wechtenhiser, Jackie Yingling and Leader-Vindicator sports editor Rich Rhoades.
A standing ovation goes out to the Redbank Valley High School students, staff and volunteers who brought us an amazing production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” this past weekend.
The talent was stellar, the costumes were beautiful, the sets were terrific and it was so great to see the RVHS auditorium filled to capacity on opening night, with large crowds also on hand Saturday and Sunday.
Congratulations to everyone involved, and especially to the show’s director, Jack Gareis.
Leading up to the production last week, The Leader-Vindicator gave away four pairs of tickets to the show via our Facebook page.
The winners were Melissa Carlson, Amanda Zubik-Collett, Paula Keister and Tana Smith Hopper. We hope you enjoyed the show!
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And speaking of giveaways, be sure to visit The Leader-Vindicator’s Facebook page this week where we are giving away two tickets to the May 4 Nutty Wine, Shine & Brew Fest in New Bethlehem.
All you need to do is find the post about the event, and Like, Comment and Share the post for a chance to win a pair of tickets. (You must be 21 to enter.)
The event is being held by the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, along Water Street, near Gumtown Park in New Bethlehem. Tickets are $25 each, and are only available via presale. Stop by the chamber office in The Jewelry Shop, or pick up your tickets at a number of New Bethlehem businesses, including the four banks in town, A-Plus, Zack’s, Subway and Shirey Overhead Doors.
Don’t delay! Only 500 tickets are being sold to this first-ever event! Proceeds benefit the chamber’s annual Independence Day fireworks display, set for July 3.
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The Easter Bunny visited New Bethlehem this past weekend, and will make an appearance in Rimersburg this Saturday, April 13, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Rimersburg Community Building.
The free event, sponsored by the Rimersburg Chamber of Commerce, will include photos with the Bunny, a photo frame craft, snacks and games.
Check back with The L-V next week for photos from the event.
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This Saturday is also the first day of trout fishing season in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau has announced its sixth annual Big Fish Contest which runs April through June.
There’s no shortage of great places to cast a line in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region. Everyone is invited to enter photos of their catch, from Jefferson, Elk, Clarion, Forest and Cameron counties, by using the submission form on the PA Great Outdoors Big Fish Contest page at VisitPAGO.com/BigFish. Entries will be posted on the PA Great Outdoors facebook page in the Big Fish Contest album.
Everyone who submits a photo will be entered to win prizes each month that include a canoe/kayak trip, gift certificates, movie passes and more.
A grand prize winner will be drawn from all entries received during the contest and win a guided half-day smallmouth bass fly fishing float trip for two in 2020 with Keystone Predator Outfitters and Todd Deluccia, the 2014 World Musky Fly-Fishing Champion.
For more information, or to enter the contest go to VisitPAGO.com/BigFish
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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting winter services feedback through an online survey. The public can take the survey through May 7 at www.surveymonkey.com/r/PennDOTWinter.
The 10-question survey asks how often respondents travel during poor weather, how they rate PennDOT’s winter service, and how they rank snow-removal priorities. Respondents are also asked how they receive PennDOT roadway information, and whether or how they use the state’s 511PA traveler information services. During the winter, www.511PA.com offers its standard traffic and incident information while adding PennDOT plow-truck locations, winter roadway conditions, and other services.
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National Arbor Day is Friday, April 26, this year, and the Arbor Day Foundation is making it easy for anyone to celebrate the annual tree-planting holiday. Join the Foundation in April and receive 10 free shade trees.
By joining the Foundation in April, new members receive the following trees: red oak, sugar maple, weeping willow, baldcypress, thornless honeylocust, pin oak, river birch, tuliptree, silver maple and red maple.
The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign. The trees will be shipped postpaid with enclosed planting instructions at the right time for planting in April or May. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.
To become a member of the Foundation and receive the free trees, visit arborday.org/april.