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North Hills Monthly

Glade Run Lake Reopening a Testimony to the Power of the People

Apr 02, 2017 12:04PM ● By Beth Gavaghan

Glade Run Lake, Photo courtesy of Reid Joyce

April 15 is an important day in the history of Glade Run Lake in Middlesex Township in Butler County. This year, for the first time since 2011, anglers will fish from its banks on opening day of Pennsylvania’s trout season. The day will cap a weeklong celebration of the lake’s reopening, due largely to the efforts of Glade Run Lake Conservancy. Plans include a video presentation April 8 at 6 p.m. at the Middlesex Fire Hall and a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 12 at 11 a.m. at the lake.

Interestingly, the 52-acre manmade lake and surrounding 100-acre property first opened to the public on April 15, 1955—also trout opening day. And people had been enjoying the lake ever since, until it was drained by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in 2011 because of a deteriorating dam.

“My wife used to take our son and daughter up there. Our golden Labrador learned how to swim at the lake,” said Glade Run Lake Conservancy President Sigmund J. “Siggy” Pehel III. “I would fish at the lake with friends.”

Pehel and many others were upset at the lake’s closure, and were told at a public meeting that a grassroots effort was needed to secure funding for its rehabilitation. And so the conservancy was born.

“The game plan was to get as many members and as much money as we could in a short period of time so we could leverage that with our political representatives and make them realize we were serious,” Pehel said.

The effort was successful. In 18 months, the conservancy attracted about 1,500 paid members. It also raised funds through donations and dedicated fundraising events. Middlesex Township and Butler County contributed $30,000 and $110,000, respectively. In all, the conservancy raised about $300,000. But the amount was far from the estimated $4.3 million needed to rehabilitate the dam and build a new, larger spillway.

Fortunately, politicians did take notice. State Sen. Randy Vulakovich spearheaded the effort with help from senators Don White and Scott Hutchinson. They approached then-Gov. Tom Corbett who, in 2014, directed $2 million to the effort from the state’s capital budget. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission matched that amount, making restoration possible.

Work on the dam and spillway started in October 2015 and was finished in August 2016. Incremental filling of the lake began in November, and on March 8, it was full.

“This was a great group effort by people of different philosophies and backgrounds, all toward one common goal,” Pehel said.

Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, expressed similar thoughts. He credited the “power of the people” in accomplishing the lake’s restoration, adding that he expects the lake to attract visitors. “It’s a wonderful gem,” he said.

Visitors to the lake will notice additional changes. The restoration came in under budget at $3.5 million, according to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Spokesperson Rick Levis. That meant money was available for upgrades. Improvements included installation of a boat turnaround, elongating and paving the existing fishing jetty walkway, and construction of a concrete ramp from the jetty to a new ADA-compliant fishing pier. Pehel said the conservancy paid for the ramp, pier and creation of a small island to serve as an osprey and turtle habitat.

The conservancy also funded construction of a 1,200-foot-long channel in the shallow end of the lake and clearing of a 1.5-mile nature trail. Local Boy Scouts helped by building a 24-foot-long bridge to the trail and installing trailhead signage. Lastly, the conservancy placed more than 100 fish habitats in the lake with plans for an additional 50.

The fish commission is slated to stock the lake on April 10, in time for trout season. Anglers are permitted to keep trout in season. Catch and release is the rule for all others until fish populations are established. As for boaters, they should avoid the new spillway for safety until the commission installs buoys in the area, said Levis. Boaters may use unpowered boats, such as kayaks and canoes, as well as electric motorboats on the lake.

Visitors to the lake have even more to look forward to since the conservancy’s work is not finished. Future plans include extending the trail, acquiring additional land and possibly installing environmentally friendly lavatories, a pavilion and gazebo. Pehel said he hopes to fund the improvements by kicking off an annual fundraising campaign, not surprisingly, with a start and end date of April 15.

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