November 2009 Mount Nittany News

Members and friends of the Conservancy recently received in the mail our Fall newsletter from the Conservancy. A link to the newsletter is below.

The following are excerpts from the Trail Signs and Maps to Help Hikers by MNC Director Jeff Deitrich.

Visitors to the Mountain this fall began to see the fruits of a long-awaited project that will help them navigate for years to come. MNC began installing a wayfinding system of trail signs at critical intersections and points on the paths.

While this project has been in mind for many years, reports of people becoming lost on the Mountain have increased in recent years. MNC decided it was time to move forward after it found new models of metal signs that are extremely resistant to vandalism.

Please consider clicking the Support Us link and offering a donation as well in order that you too can receive future hard copy newsletters.

Wayfinder Project Pictures

In the summer of 2009 the Mount Nittany Conservancy (MNC) began installing a wayfinding system of trail signs at critical intersections and points on the paths. In total, we have placed 19 signs on the Blue and White trails to help guide our visitors on the Mountain.

Below are a few pictures taken during the process.

Notice: Traveling in the back country can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site may contain errors or omissions. Please use common sense when hiking, and follow all rules & regulations as well as Leave No Trace principles when recreating in the out of doors. The Mount Nittany Conservancy takes NO responsibility for any injuries, accidents, mishaps, etc. that might take place on the grounds of the Conservancy.

PA Land Conservation Conference/Confluence 2009

On May 7 – 9, MNC President Vince verbeke attended the 7th Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference/Confluence 2009 co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The conference them was Working Together to Protect Our Land, Water & Communities.

He reports that he is still trying to process everything that he heard and learned over the three days of the conference. He said, “This was my first true immersion into the preservation and conversation areas. It’s amazing what others are doing across the Commonwealth.”

Vince also reports that “Most importantly, I’ve met others who we can know reach out to and ask for help as we go forward with plans to work with our Mountain neighbors on conservation easements. For example, I had the chance to meet and talk with Bill Hilshey from Clearwater Conservancy and Norm Lathbury from the Centre County Farmland Trust.

I also met Paul Lumia and Rick Koval from the North Branch Land Trust as well. They have a long, and detailed, page on their site about easements.

MNC also had an information table setup at the Conference as well:


The Changing Forest on Mt. Nittany

By Tom Smyth, MNC Board member, November 2008

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon cars were parked down around the bend on ML Nittany Road and the trails were filled with hikers. As I headed up the Hal White Trail the folks coming down seemed happy and several remarked on what a beautiful hike it is and how good the trails are. And, they were right. That got me to thinking about how different the hike was when I first went up in 1955 as a young faculty member, an advisor to the Penn State Outing Club (PSOC). Then, the only trails were apparently old logging chutes that came steeply down the fall line. The mountain had been clear cut early in the 20th century so the forest consisted of saplings and small pole timber, mostly sprouts from old stumps, and some seedlings that had been released by the lumbering. There was a very small view at what has since been named the Mike Lynch Overlook. The hike provided a good physical workout; we climbed Mt. Nittany “because it is there”, not for the beauty of the forest or excellent views.

Over the next several years, with help from some PSOC members we added a loop trail on top (now blazed white) partly following old logging tracks, and cleared several more outlooks. In the late 1970s Tom Thwaites and Steve McGuire made the diagonal Hal White Trail, since modified by additional switchbacks. The blue trails and outlooks have been added since the early 1990s. Diagonal trails have made the ascent less arduous and reduced trail erosion. The additional viewpoints have made the hike more rewarding.

Meanwhile, the forest itself has been maturing and changing. Sprouts from decaying stumps following lumbering often become trees with rotten cores and a reduced life span. Many have died, providing an opportunity for the survivors to grow larger. Helpful thinning has also been provided by several other agents. In 1955 one of my first assignments was to attend a conference in Carlisle on oak wilt, a fungus disease mainly spread by leaf hoppers, possibly by woodpeckers, and through root grafts. Affected trees may die within a month or survive up to a year. Oak wilt killed some trees. The next plague was extensive defoliation by oak leaf roller caterpillars. There was some tree mortality directly due to recurring extensive defoliation and more due to “oak decline”, a loss of vitality abetted by air pollution, leaving the trees more susceptible to secondary attack by other insects and pathogens. Over the recent decades gypsy moth populations have increased to damaging levels twice and have been controlled by aerial spraying, once with a chemical (Dimilin) and recently with a bacterial spray. Again there was some tree mortality.

More thinning has been caused by other agents. Lightning strikes are common on or near the ridge. Heavy snow or ice burdens and freak winds have brought down a few trees. Trail compaction by hikers weakens nearby trees. Campfires scorch the surrounding forest. A few trees have been cut to block eroding older trails or provide logs for water bars and benches. I can recall five surface fires that cleared out underbrush but harmed few of the larger trees. Where trees die, surrounding trees are able to grow more vigorously. There is also an opportunity for new trees to have a chance. What these new trees are depends on what seeds are present and on environmental conditions, especially the soil and water.

Most of the mountains of the ridge-and-valley province, including most of Mt. Nittany, are capped with white Tuscarora sandstone (or quartzite). This breaks down to a white sand which easily washes away. It is quite acid, drains rapidly and is unable to bind more than a minimal amount of plant nutrients. Most of the useful nutrients on the ridges are contained within the vegetation, especially the bark of trees. Thus, harvesting the trees impoverishes the soil. The trees best able to survive on these ridges are chestnut oaks which an tolerate poor acid soil, dry summers and exposure to the winds. Their thick bark resists surface fires. Another tree that withstands these conditions is pitch pine, but there is very little pitch pine on the southwest end of Mt. Nittany. However, there are numerous table mountain pines, a southern species found here at the extreme northern limit of its range. Just below the ridge there are black and paper birches and red maples. The ground is covered with lowbush blueberries and teaberry. The fragrant pink flowers of trailing arbutus are a bonus in late April.

At the southwest end of the mountain the ridge is a little lower and is topped by the older Bald Eagle sandstone. This brown sandstone is softer and apparently contains more plant nutrients because the forest is more diverse. It must have supported a forest of American chestnut before the lumbering. The chestnuts were killed to the ground by chestnut blight early in the 20th century but the roots survive and continue to send up shoots There are many young chestnuts even today, but they don’t grow to a trunk diameter of more than three or four inches before the blight attacks and kills them back to the ground. The forest on this end of the ridge today contains many pignut hickories, red oaks, black cherries, service berries and small sassafras trees. Pink azaleas provide a fragrant display in mid-May. Teaberry is very abundant

Lower on the slopes where the soil is deeper and moister there are many more red and black oaks which eventually overtop the chestnut oaks and they grow larger where the bedrock is mainly shale. Still lower, near the parking area and lower boundary of Lion’s Paw land the soil is deeper, richer and moister. White oak, white ash, shagbark hickory and black maple are common trees; witch hazel and viburnums are common shrubs; anemones, violets and saxifrages and some of the woodland goldenrods are among the ground cover plants. Wild grape and Virginia creeper, formerly rare, are becoming more common and can be expected to provide food for wildlife in the future.

The broad top of the mountain is level to somewhat dish shaped. Secondary soils have developed in places. White oak, white pine, black birch, black cherry and hickory are growing to larger size and are increasing in numbers. Where there is enough light blackberry, huckleberry, lowbush blueberry, and deerberry are more likely to bear fruit here than elsewhere on the mountain. This is where one is most likely to see wild turkey and grouse.

The forest today is becoming mature, with some large trees providing a canopy above smaller species or younger trees, large shrubs, small shrubs and ground cover plants. Some vines are present Chestnut oak will continue to dominate the crest of the ridge, but is being replaced mainly by other oaks farther down. From the progression of sizes of seedling to sapling trees, it appears that white ash and shagbark hickory are spreading up the mountain and pignut hickory out and down from the southwest top. White pine has increased on the flat top. The forest is still not old enough to provide many den trees for wildlife, but should soon reach that stage Without fire, pitch and table mountain pine should continue to die out without much replacement.

In summary, the forest on the mountain has become more interesting and attractive over the years and the trails are more hiker friendly. Visitors to the mountain are appreciative.

November 2008 Mount Nittany News

Members and friend of the Conservancy recently received in the mail our Fall newsletter from the Conservancy. A link to the newsletter is below.

The following are excerpts from Vince Verbeke’s President’s message.

The MNC Board would like to thank everyone who supported our drive to pay for aerial spraying in Spring 2008 to combat the gypsy moths.

As we had hoped, the spray was effective in minimizing defoliation. A more detailed report on the current status of the Mountain can be found later in the newsletter. However, we do have areas on the Mountain that should be sprayed again in 2009.

So we ask that you renew your annual “Friends of Mt. Nittany” commitment once
again. We’d also like all of our Friends to tell one other person about the Conservancy and its goals.

Please consider clicking the Support Us link and offering a donation as well in order that you too can receive future hard copy newsletters.

College Township has our Thanks and a Piece of the Mountain

When the Conservancy’s 825 acres was included in the 2008 PA Bureau of Forestry spraying program, we needed time to raise the $13,005 to cover the cost.

College Township stepped up to advance the funds before the county payment deadline of mid-December until the Conservancy was able to raise the funds. The MNC Board of Directors would like to express our sincere appreciation for their generosity. After the successful completion of our Spring Challenge Grant Campaign, we were able to reimburse the College Township Council.

At the June 19, 2008 College Township Council meeting, the Conservancy presented David Fryer, Township Council Chair with a framed Mt. Nittany Life Estate deed in thanks for the support.

Left to right is Adam Brumbaugh, Township Manager/Secretary; David Fryer, Township Council Chair; MNC Board member Erich May; MNC Board member Jeff Dietrich.


Donors during the Spring Challenge Grant Campaign

The MNC Board of Directors would like to express our sincere appreciation for the $5,000 Challenge Grant from the Centre County Community Foundation and to report our success in meeting that challenge.

We were fortunate that the spraying was completed in mid-May for the entire mountain, and we are optimistic that the effectiveness of the spray will minimize defoliation. Since we were included in the County/State spraying program, our cost for spraying our 825 acres was $13,005. The $5,000 Challenge Grant provided by CCCF was a key part of MNC being able to meet that cost.

Overall, community and alumni interest in protecting the trees on Mt. Nittany from gypsy moth damage was very high. This level of interest was also reflected in media coverage about the Gypsy Moth threat, and Mt. Nittany provided a well-known reference that would perhaps host a “Perfect Storm” of damage by these insects. Our fundraising efforts focused on the need to keep our Mountain green by meeting the Challenge Grant from CCCF.

The “official” months to match the Challenge Grant were April and May. Thanks to the support of our Friends $6,630 was donated during these months.

The remaining funds have supported our communications efforts and have been designated to beginning a reserve fund for future preservation of the Mountain.

See the Honor Roll of Donors who have supported our efforts during the Challenge Grant. You can become a Friend of the Conservancy or purchase a deed at any time.

  • James Anderson
  • Dennis & Margaret Anspach
  • Appalachian Outdoors
  • Richard Betts
  • Patrick M. Bisbey
  • Bill & Angela Boor
  • Emory Brown
  • E. Alan Cameron
  • Andrew Carson
  • Tom M. Cavalier
  • Karen Hargleroad Clautice
  • Michael Cooper
  • Charles Culnane
  • Carl and Martha Deitrich
  • Donald Devorris
  • Melbourne DeYoung
  • Robert Dix
  • Kevin Donlon
  • Martin Duff
  • David W. Dulabon
  • John Dutton
  • Harry J. Endres
  • Barry W. Fisher
  • Robert M. Fisher
  • Stuart Forth
  • Robert E. Fry
  • Gary & Ralphine Gentzler
  • Carolyn Grundy
  • William T. Grundy
  • Michael F. Hamel
  • Martin L. Heavner
  • Thad L. Hecht
  • Robert S. Hodder Jr.
  • William & Wendy Hudson


  • William A. Jaffe
  • Kevin Jud, Philadelphia PA
  • Mel S. Klein
  • Edward H. Klevans
  • Ned J. Kocher
  • Daniel Land
  • John and Gretchen Leathers
  • Herberta M. Lundegren
  • Samuel J. Malizia
  • Vincent L. Marino
  • Patricia E. McMullen
  • Ralph Mumma
  • Sue Obal
  • Allan and Bobbie Ostar
  • David M. Pellnitz
  • PSU Interfraternity Council
  • Paul Pilgram
  • Ralph E. Pilgram
  • James W. Powers
  • Joseph Rahalewich
  • Alexander H. Raye
  • Catherine Rein
  • Mary Jane Roelofs
  • Vincent Tedesco
  • Theodore C. Schmidt
  • Richard S. Schweiker
  • Daniel & Roseann Sieminski
  • Garen Smith
  • Richard Verity
  • S. Jeanine Vermillion
  • John & Annabelle Wenzke
  • John & Kathleen Winter
  • Robert S. Zakos Jr.


Blue & White Society and Circle K work on the Mountain

The Blue & White Society and the Circle K organization from Penn State’s University Park campus worked on the Mountain on May 6, 2008. The group did an OUTSTANDING job. They repaired water bars and steps, and they positioned a very large new log seat at the popular Mike Lynch Overlook at the top of the Mountain.

Blue & White Society members included:

  • Amy Weixel, Director of Community Service
  • Lucy Ruetiman, Treasurer
  • Caity Rogowski. Director of Public Relations
  • Noelle Smith, Director of Membership
  • Dan Foxx, Attendance Chair

Circle K members included:

  • Bucky Vogt, Co-Projects Director
  • Scott Wilson, President