Spring Creek Canyon Case Study

Posted: May 23, 2014

James Parrotte is a third year Community, Environment and Development major; under the International Development option. Meghan Steward graduated in the fall semester of 2014 from Penn State as an undergraduate with a degree in Community, Environment and Development. Upon graduation, her plans are to travel extensively in the United States and to hopefully join the Peace Corps.

Eleanor Polley, Meg Steward, James Parrotte, Erica Hildabridle


The Spring Creek Canyon (SCC) has played an important role in the development of the central region of Pennsylvania over the last two centuries. A multitude of factors have come into play as the area slowly industrialized and populated, such as: ecology, sociology, land use, local government and politics. The goal of this case study is to evaluate the ways in which all of these factors helped distinguish and shape the development of the State College metropolis, along with neighboring counties. Moreover, this case study takes a look at the historical progress of the area, as well as an up-to-date look at the future of this land.

Through this case study we have compiled, organized and evaluated a sizeable amount of data. Sources range from the 2010 U.S. Census to in-depth interviews with public officials involved with the Spring Creek Canyon. Incorporated into the case study are also the teachings of Michael Mayerfeld Bell, a prominent environmental sociologist. His textbook, An Invitation to Environmental Sociology, provided much of the framework necessary for understanding the true complexities of the SCC issues.

History & Formal Timeline

The first concrete historical information found on SCC concerned a man named Phillip Benner (Bob Hazelton, 2013.) Philip Benner was originally from Chester County and he was well versed in the iron trade at the Mifflin County Coventry Forge. Prior to this training, he was also a private in the revolutionary war. The iron trade was an incredibly profitable business at the time, and Benner had not only learned the trade, but was also a savvy businessman. In 1792, Benner convinced 93 men to move out to a 1,000-acre plot of land he purchased about 200 miles away from Chester County; the area was located within the region that we now know as Centre County. The men moved to this new area with the intention of working the land. Upon arrival to the region, Benner named the town 'Rock' on account of the geological formations that were consistent throughout the area. In 1792, the same year the men arrived on the land, the Centre Furnace was also established in the Village of Rock (Magargel, 1940). Benner recognized that he had chosen a fertile plot of land soon after he arrived and saw the convenience of the stream that flowed through the area. In a 1973 account of his time in the village of Rock, Benner included a description of the sheer numbers of fish in the stream: "Here I can get any day I choose venison and trout as much as I can destroy. I can against sunrise myself catch four or five-dozen trout. John Hastings and I caught 12 dozen in about two hours" (Magargel, 1940). Benner started the town of Rock by providing the workers a sawmill, shelters, and an iron forge. Benner realized the financial gains he would make if he focused on processing the iron at his forge and then selling it to nearby cities, rather than producing pig iron. However, Centre County to Boston, or even Centre County to Philadelphia, is quite a long trip by horseback; it is quite incredible that Benner created such extensive continental trade routes. In order for the horses to be able to carry as much iron as possible with the least amount of strain, Benner transported the iron in upside-down shaped U figures to be draped over the back of the horses. Benner also used river systems to transport iron throughout the country, sometimes filling boats with up to $50,000 worth of iron. In the early 1800's, $50,000 was an incredible amount of money to be making on one shipment. Bob Hazelton stated that there was even one captain of one of Benner's $50,000 shipments that transported the iron to Louisiana and then chose not return with the money and go to France instead. Before this occurred, there were accounts of Benner using oxen and stream transportation as means of moving his finished iron products to large cities. Benner later chose to switch to using workhorse teams because of the smaller amount of damage that would be caused to the ore in a wagon upset as opposed to a sunken shipment on the water (Magargel, 1940). The forest clearing that occurred as Benner and his team developed the region of Rock allowed for a lot of open land that could be harvested for crops. Later, a flourmill was built so that Benner and his team could process the wheat they grew into flour for bread. The historic Benner mansion that was built in 1812 was eventually removed from the Rock region in the 1970's. The History of Rock provides a detailed account of the precision that was put into the construction of the Benner mansion, with elaborate details that clearly indicate the class and power that the Benner family had during the beginning of settlement. The house was finished in 1812 and had the initials of the builder, the planner, and both Mary and Phillip Benner engraved in it (Magargel 1940.)

Observing historical maps dating from 1861 and 1874, it is evident that there were some dramatic social and economic changes that occurred in the village of Rock. By 1861, numerous 'Reynolds' names were marked on the map that was originally scattered with Benner titles; indicating that the owners of businesses or general residencies had changed. In 1874, the dams that were once marked on the map as indicators of the waterpower sources appeared blank. Hazleton explained that the changes in the map stating that after Benner passed away he left his children the property he owned, hoping that they would continue the practice he had started in the area; however, none of his children had the skill set or entrepreneurial experience of their father, so the land was quickly sold off. William Reynolds, an experienced businessman by the age of 17, entered the banking business and made a considerable amount of profit at a young age. He moved to Bellefonte in 1841, and was able to buy a 200-acre parcel of land for $20. Around this same time, the Benner children had come to realize that they were not going to experience the same financial comfort as they did when their father was alive, and that in order to pay off their debts and continue to support themselves, they needed to sell the land they had inherited. William Reynolds bought a great deal of the Benner property and, upon purchasing the land, Reynolds changed the emphasis of the Village of Rock to be more agriculturally oriented. This was a much quicker process than it would have been upon initial settlement, because a number of the fields used for agricultural land were created through logging that occurred during the Benner era. The offspring of William Reynolds had also built a successful match factory in Bellefonte, which created another source of income for the Village of Rock. The Reynolds family became so successful that they donated the Rock Methodist Church to the commonwealth for a fee of $1 after the church experienced a decrease in attendance and a loss of profit. Later in the early 20th century, the New Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania (later named Rockview State Prison) bought the area of Rock from the Reynolds family and used the land as a site for a prison. The penitentiary actually used a lot of the land for their inmates to learn valuable trades as well. The inmates were taught how to farm the land because it was not only a profitable and useful skill, but the penitentiary could also can and sell a variety of the products grown by the inmates. Historically speaking, the Reynolds, Phillip Benner, and Rockview were the main players involved with making SCC and Centre County what it is today. A few other people, such as Harvey Mann, the 'Axmann' who was world-renowned for making quality axes, provided economic and public cornerstones for the region as well. Harvey Mann not only sent products out from the area to be sold elsewhere, but also brought people and money into the area. Mann's factory was built and started production in 1828 (Baker, 2001.) Spring Creek Canyon is an incredible tract of land, which has been almost completely untouched with the exception of a stream reclamation project in the 1940's. During this time, the dams that were used in the area to provide hydroelectric power to businesses such as Harvey Mann's ax company were cleaned up after they had been abandoned with no environmental standard for closing procedures. This was conducted through a federal remediation process during which al members of the town helped clean up the streams which were heavily polluted, helping to restore the biota and the health of the local ecosystem. In 1953, the fish research station saw the land's incredible diversity in the fish population and bought some land, where there is currently a fishery hatchery today that publishes studies that are internationally recognized. Because of the rich history of Spring Creek Canyon, and its natural beauty and resources, ownership concerning this land became a great issue as time progressed. Starting in 2000, the Pennsylvania State Government recognized that Rockview had a surplus of land and that some of the area could be divested. However it was not until 2004 that the Governor of Pennsylvania announced the decision to divest 1,800 acres of Rockview's land in Spring Creek Canyon. The 1,800 acre piece of Spring Creek Canyon, which had been under Rockview control since 1912, would now have the potential to be open land to the public (Baker, 2001.) Shortly after the Governor's announcement was made, it became known that land near Spring Creek Canyon and Interstate-99 would be put under new ownership. Debate quickly started over whom the owner of the land should be, and several big agencies expressed interest in the land. Penn State, Benner Township, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission all wanted to gain control of the land. Clearwater Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization founded in 1980 by a group of volunteers, also wanted to be part of the picture and ensure that the new landowner would take-care of the property and conserve it properly (Jen Shuey, 2013.) In order to move forward and properly represent a variety of voices and opinions regarding the controversial land allocation process, a consulting team was formed in 2006 that consisted of three main groups. The first group was a Steering Committee, focused on representing the perspective landowners (Penn State, the Fish and Boat Commission, and Benner Township) and also state representatives and senators. The second group was the Technical Advisory Committee, which consisted of experts who could attest to the historical aspects of the land. Finally, there was the Public Advisory Committee, which consisted of representatives from the 14 municipalities that use Spring Creek as a water source. The three committees worked together to build consensus over who should own the 1,800 acres of land. Near the end of the consultant team meetings, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided that they wanted to have a chance to own the land as well. However, the PA Game Commission wanted the entire tract of available land. This announcement prolonged the debate over the land. The Game Commission's decision to take part in the debate broke a general consensus among the committees and in some ways hurt the final output of the discussions. Finally, in the fall of 2007, the state legislature authorized a bill that would divide the 1,800 acres among the 4 major potential owners (Benner Township, 2011.) In the spring of 2008 the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) began the planning process. By spring 2009 the formal Master Management Plans were endorsed by the Steering Committee. Entering the summer of 2009, another state legislator drafted another bill that would transfer the land to the various landowners, splitting the 1,800 acres between 4 main parties. Finally, in the summer of 2010, the legislation passed and the land was divided (Benner Township, 2011.) Of the 1,800 acres, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission received the area around the stream and anything within 75 feet of the stream's center (Benner Township, 2011.) The Pennsylvania Game Commission received a lot of the forested land while Benner Township took ownership over 25 acres that mainly consisted of trailheads and parking lots. Additionally, Penn State received about 400 acres of land in various pockets near Interstate 99. Rockview was also able to keep some land areas in order to maintain drinking water for facilities and have access roads to the prison grounds.

Unfortunately, after the land was divided up there was no formalized plan on how all of the different landowners should make decisions regarding the land. To smooth over the situation, Clearwater Conservancy continued to maintain a third party role, keeping an eye on Spring Creek Canyon. The non-profit organization is now placing conservation easements, to keep the land from diminishing over time, on the areas owned by Penn State and Benner 5

Township. However, state lands are exempt from conservation easements. Therefore, the most precious areas of Spring Creek Canyon that would benefit the most from conservation easements are exempt from having easements because they fall under the ownership of the PA Game and PA Boat commissions. It is estimated that the easement Clearwater is working on regarding Penn State's share of Spring Creek Canyon wil be completed by end of 2013, or at the latest mid-year 2014 (Benner Township, 2011.)

Community Context

Center County encompasses Spring Creek Canyon and the surrounding townships/boroughs. In order to fully understand the situation regarding Spring Creek Canyon, it is necessary to have a context for the community surrounding it. The general population of Centre County was 155,171 in 2012, according to the U.S. Census report. The same Census report also gave data on the age structure on the Centre County population stating that 4.1% of the entire county was under 5 years of age, 15.6% was under 18 years, and those 65 years or older accounted for 11.9% of the population. This being said, it appears that Centre County is predominantly made up of a young age structure. Breaking down the data even further, the US Census Bureau stated that Bellefonte (located in Centre County) had a population of 6,311 people in 2012, and State College (also within Centre County) had a population of 41,983 in the same year. This statistic shows one of the largest differences between the two boroughs; although they are a mere 13 miles away from each other, the two towns have many differences. It is possible that the highly educated faculty at The Pennsylvania State University, located in Centre County, contribute greatly to the high education percentages of the region. Regardless, the large number of educated people in Centre County can most definitely influence the power dynamics of the region and affect the management of Spring Creek Canyon. Regarding the housing market, we must look at the Bellefonte area mostly. Since the Spring Creek Canyon is mostly centered in the town of Bellefonte, it is important to see how the housing population had changed their opposed to all of Centre County. Bellefonte had a little under half of their population renting in 2011. This suggests that residents in Bellefonte are either students, temporary workers, or have a lower income than that of State College. When comparing the housing in State College, There were only 2,233 owners of houses in the borough, whereas there were 10,437 renters. This again reflects the young student population that has an effect on the demographics and economic situation in State College.

Fortunately, the housing market in the area surrounding the Spring Creek Canyon was not greatly affected by the changes in the land management. The Institute at Rockview has kept the area clear from development. Since the area had already been restricted by the Institute, there were no homes in the area to spoil the space for public and conservational use. Knowing about the lack of settlement around the Spring Creek Canyon, there is now a need for housing in the areas surrounding Spring Creek Canyon. This has come about due to the university's student housing requirement. While the student housing can be deemed affordable, it is not really a top property since it is geared towards students who will occupy it for about two years. A current concern is sprawl. This is due to the growing population in Bellefonte connected partially to the university. The other reason is due to the burst that could potentially happen from the huge amounts of people in the State College area. With the Spring Creek Canyon area being between College Township and Bellefonte Township, it was a concern that the area surrounding the canyon would become a settled area. The people of Benner Township and Centre County held this as a major concern due to losing the environmental integrity of the land.

Happy Valley has a vast array of recreational activities available including skiing, Olympic level training triathlons, biking, kayaking, skydiving and collegiate level sports. Another hugely influential activity in this area is hiking and backpacking. Pennsylvania is riddled with a network of gorgeous trails, ranging in difficulty. The hiking aspect plays a role into the development of the SCC area that is accessible to the public for recreation. Fishing is also a prominent pastime in the area, as well as biking. The trails in the region are multipurpose, as they serve a variety of hikers, trail runners and cyclists.

In conclusion, having an understanding of the overall demographics of the region is very important in analyzing the Spring Creek Canyon situation. Understanding the make-up of the society surrounding an environmental resource is useful in helping to interpret and resolve conflict regarding that resource. In order to best utilize and protect a natural resource, like Spring Creek Canyon, it is necessary to know the type of people in the area so that power structures and values can be more easily seen. The demographics of Centre County are an important factor to consider when addressing the management of Spring Creek Canyon.

Key Players

The Key players in the Spring Creek Canyon controversy each had unique roles in the end result of the land allocation process for the canyon. Because they were all coming from different perspectives regarding how they felt the land could be best used, there was a lot of tension regarding each one entering the picture. Beginning with the original players in the decisions of land allocation, Penn State and Benner Township were, in the initially drafted plan, supposed to get a majority of the land. Penn State was initially rewarded 1,124 acres to the College of Agricultural Sciences for the purpose of research of the area. Then Benner Township was (originally) allocated almost all of the remaining land (Onward State, 2009), for other purposes. Although it is important to have such a large entity like Penn State Univers ity as a stakeholder in such an ecologically important area, it is also important to have stakeholders involved in the process who are concerned with the natural health and protection of the area from a conservation perspective. With the recognition from the Sierra Club and other national organizations (Schwartz and Yagle) of the canyon, an alliance of 23 different environmental groups combined and was in support of other stakeholders, such as the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission entering the picture. As stated on their home page, "the mission of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth's aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities" (PFBC Overview). This statement shows the direction in which their intentions were directed. One of the canyon's main attributes is the excel ent fishing (since the clean up effort in the 1940's), which has resulted in a commission that solely protects the waters. Many freshwater vernal pools and springs that are capable of producing up to a million gallons of water per day feed into the creek, helping it maintain the excellent water quality and therefore an abundance of fish and other wildlife (Schwartz and Yagle). The Fish and Boat Commission were drafted into the SCC plans soon after the original plan that only included Penn State and Benner Township. This new addition caused little upset in the planning process because of the lack of permanent structure that was in the planning already.

However, the same cannot be said about the Game Commission. On their website the description that is used to describe the Game Commission states that their purpose is and has been to, "manage the Commonwealth's wildlife resources for al Pennsylvanians" with subdivisions including wildlife management, wildlife protection, and habitat management (Pennsylvania Game Commission).. Although the Game Commission was granted the land that was deemed most important to be protected and specifically 70 feet from the water (Jen Shuey, 2013), it was seen that the Game Commission's entrance into the SCC plan was a negative addition. Again, this notion brings back the idea that differing perspectives can bring the stakeholders involved in this process to see the same situation quite differently This could have been because the plan was already in motion to be drafted and some drastic last minute changes had to be made in order to fit the Game Commission into the picture. Regardless, they (the Game Commission) were allocated the majority of the land for protection purposes. It is also important to understand how this entire SCC plan was funded. Why was the area not made into a state park like Rockview? At the time that Governor Rendell deemed the land was not necessary to be under Rockview Prison control, there were severe cuts in funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the entity that normally assumes the position of funding, maintaining, and establishing new ownership procedures. Although the DCNR did not have the resources to fund this SCC settlement, they did have enough money to fund the drafting of the master plan, and most of the process that has lead Spring Creek Canyon to where it is today (Schwartz and Yagle). Clearwater Conservancy, a small organization that is often utilized as a mediator during a process of decisions regarding ecological concerns, played a large role in actually getting the master plan drafted. Although there were a lot of bumps in the road along the process, the involvement of Clearwater Conservancy was incredibly important. It is also important to note the involvement of the public. Without their involvement, it is likely that the Game Commission would not have entered the picture on account of the alliance of environmental groups of the area. Along with the public meetings, the local people were able to voice their opinions about the involvement of Penn State in the SCC plan and their concern for the land. Although it was not a perfect process by any means, all of the stakeholders and the other key players helped shape the master plan and the Canyon to what it is today.

Main Issues in the Controversy

Due to the rich history of Spring Creek Canyon, and its natural beauty and resources, ownership concerning the property was a great issue. In fact, data from Benner Township states that Spring Creek Canyon is home to 17 types of endangered species and three different types of bio-habitats (Benner Township, 2011.) Also, the Sierra Club named the Canyon as one of the nation's 52 most imperiled ecologically significant places in 2007 (Benner Township, 2011.) Therefore, debate quickly started over who the new owners of the ecological hotspot would be after the governor announced the divestment of the 1,800 piece of property. Analyzing the issues surrounding Spring Creek Canyon, Benner Township in collaboration with other locals created the Spring Creek Canyon Conservation Strategy Executive Summary. In this summary, several principles were identified as "keys" to be used regarding future planning and conservation of the property. The first aspect identified was to protect the natural and cultural resources of the area by decreasing the effects of society on the region, specifically on the conservation and restoration areas of the canyon (Executive Summary.) The second aspect of the summary was to balance recreational activities with the canyon's actual carrying capacity. Next, it was proposed that there should be coordination of both public and private access to the property. The fourth suggestion was to develop a dynamic strategy for protecting the natural resources and cultural values of the property. In addition to the "key" suggestions, some active proposals were to expand the forested area of the region and remove poor forest edges. Also, it was proposed that there should be a buffer surrounding important habitat areas and groundwater infiltration should be maximized. Along the same lines, the summary suggested that invasive species be reduced and that existing infrastructure corridors should be utilized so as not to disturb existing inhabited areas. Overall, this Executive Summary highlighted some of the main issues at the heart of the Spring Creek Canyon controversy. The fact of the matter is that the conflict over Spring Creek Canyon ran deeper than just establishing new ownership over the property. The controversy was rooted in the land itself and what would be done with the land under different ownership. The potential for new owners put issues such as conservations strategies, habitat preservation, and recreational access at stake. Therefore, digging deeper into the Spring Creek Canyon controversy, it is easy to understand the issues that were at the heart of the case and why they would cause conflict among a diverse group of stakeholders.

Application of Theories


The first concept that must be considered when looking at the relationships between all of the stakeholders is the idea of risk. Risk, as defined by Michael Bell, is "a modern cultural means, a contemporary conceptual language, for confronting uncertainty" (Bel, p. 238, 2012). This can be seen in the case of the canyon specifically when we discuss the allocation of the land of the Spring Creek Canyon. Risk was such a prevalent topic because of the reactions that happened when the land was allocated. As was discussed in early parts of the paper, there were many different organizations interested in the area of Spring Creek Canyon. With so many different hands in the area, some aspects of risk are to be expected. There were many societal aspects that took place between the public and their opinions of who should be taking control of the land. The risk was to the public and the canyon as to what was potentially going to happen to the area. Risk has to be taken into consideration when talking about the allocation of land at Spring Creek Canyon. There was a large risk involved with the way that the land was distributed, as far the community was concerned. The entire situation caused a great deal of skepticism within the community and brought the question of how much people could risk by putting their trust into different organizations.


Another concept that was a recurring theme for the land allocation process at Spring Creek Canyon involved the concept of trust. As stated previously in the case study, the variety of stakeholders that came from different perspectives of how the land should be used proved one of the largest issues throughout the entire process. As Bell states in his chapter concerning trust and social perceptions, "The best way to build trust is when people are open to questions that probe their reports of their experiences in the outdoors, in the lab, in their towns, in their families, in their own bodies- and when they are open to any considered reasons others might have for disagreeing…trust should be about a willingness to disagree and debate and still retain a sense of social connection..." (Bel, page 252.) Risk can also be connected to trust. Many Centre County citizens felt it was a risk to trust Penn State with the land and SCC area. After all of the development that had taken place surrounding the university, the citizens felt it was a risk to allow any of the SCC area to go to Penn State. The concern was also centered on the uncertainty of turning the area from a sustainable area to an area that would be destroyed.

As discussed in class, one of the best ways to discern trust between two people is to look at the previous involvements they have had with other people. For example, one could note the outcomes of Penn State's relationships with other people in the county, such as the zoning of Circleville farms into Circleville parks. After they converted the largest plot of land still in the county that close to campus into student housing, it showed to the community what the priority of the university really was. Along with other decisions that the University has made over the years, the community has been left with some social abrasions that have both left them in the dark of decisions that have been made, leaving the community feeling as though they have been taken advantage of. Although the process of this case study has revealed that the Game Commission was really doing Spring Creek Canyon a favor by getting involved, the attitude with which they entered really hindered the ability for a cohesive outcome. For conservation's sake it was necessary for the Game Commission to have an all-or-nothing mindset in regards to land allocation, however, it really proved difficult to create a setting where compromise could be a possibility. This attitude of all-or-nothing was quickly translated to the community as well, which created many rifts and an increased amount of conflict between locals in the community as well as increasing conflict between the stakeholders.

It may seem as though trust was hard to find throughout the whole process, however there were a few organizations involved in the process who helped increase the amount of trust between the stakeholders and the public. One of the largest contributors in this area of the land allocation decision was the Clearwater Conservancy. Clearwater Conservancy and Jen Shuey, the executive director of the organization, acted as a neutral party in the process in order to draft the most effective and fair master plan for the land. Without the involvement of this organization, it would have not only taken much longer to reach a solution, but it probably would have been much less agreeable for many people involved. By involving a third party without personal benefit in the allocation process, trust was easily instilled through this involvement and allowed stakeholders to approach someone involved in the process without worrying about incentives.

Social Construction

In addition to the concepts of risk and trust, the theory of social construction of nature applies to the Spring Creek Canyon case study. The idea of social construction, as expressed by Bell in Chapter 8 (Bell, 2012) is that nature and humanity exist in the same realm. In other words, there are connections between societies and nature. According to the theory, each individual (and society) views nature in a certain manner and their view of nature then influences their attitudes towards the environment. Therefore, nature means different things to different people and is influenced by an individual's personal beliefs and values. This idea of social construction of the environment is quite applicable to the Spring Creek Canyon conflict as many different stakeholders viewed the Spring Creek region differently. It can be argued that the manner in which the Rockview prison managers perceived Spring Creek Canyon varied greatly from the perceptions held by the PA Boat Commission or Penn State. The Spring Creek region means different things to different individuals in the local community. Some view the area as a prized fish hatchery, others see it as a beautiful ecological zone that should be preserved, and others see it as a recreation spot. Different perceptions of the land influence how people act towards the land and how they want to see the land managed. This was one of the key factors influencing the Spring Creek Canyon conflict. Delving into the perceptions of each of the various stakeholders, I found a variety of values and morals between them. The mission of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), as stated on their website is, "to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth's aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities" (PFBC). In a March/April 2012 edition of the "Pennsylvania Angler and Boater," published by the PFBC, a story was published caled "Riffle and pool." The article is about a man who visits Spring Creek Canyon and reflects on his passion for fishing and his experience fishing at Spring Creek Canyon specifically. The story is very serene; detailing the peaceful surroundings of the man and his emotions as he patiently waits for a bite. This story is a great reflection of the values held by many involved with the PFBC. Moreover the story can represent how the PFBC socially constructs nature to be a peaceful place in which citizens can utilize the water resources for recreational fishing (Carline & Dunlap.) Additionally, the fact that a world-renowned fishery lies on the 1,800-acre property of Spring Creek Canyon also plays a role in the PFBC's perceptions of the region. For the PFBC the fishery is a place for animals, their natural habitat and people who will pursue the animals for recreation or commercial purposes. In 2011 the PFBC issued a report titled, "The Fishery of Spring Creek; a Watershed Under Siege" (Levis & Feaser, 2011) which is a detailed account of the Spring Creek Fishery. The report includes details about water quality, trout production, and the results of various demographic factors on the fishery. This report reflects the fact that the PFBC value's lie in the protections, conservation and enjoyment of the water resources in the Pennsylvania area. Having these core values thus influences the way the PFBC views Spring Creek Canyon. For the PFBC Spring Creek is a region that should be maintained so that the fishery can continue to prosper and fisherman can enjoy the recreation the water resource provides (Levis & Feaser, 2011.) When the PFBC speaks of Spring Creek Canyon they emphasize words like "fishery" and "recreation" In contrast, Penn State University, recognized as a prestigious research institution, values the growth of education (Politics Part of Equation, 2009.) Therefore, the University saw the Spring Creek Canyon as an opportunity to advance research and learning opportunities. When Penn State spoke of the land they mentioned words like "research" rather than "recreation" like the PFBC emphasized (Politics Part of Equation, 2009.) This once again confirms how one's values can influence one's perceptions of an environmental region (Politics Part of Equation, 2009.)

However, the interesting aspect of this Spring Creek Canyon controversy was that it involved many more stakeholders besides Penn State and the PFBC. The more stakeholders involved meant that there was even more variance in perceptions of the one 1,800 acre piece of land. Regarding Spring Creek Canyon, neighboring Benner townships stated that they wanted to collaborate with other local supporters to "define a comprehensive strategy for the 1,800-acre 14

Spring Creek Canyon Site." (Spring Creek Canyon Executive Summary) Because Benner township surrounds the canyon area, their concerns were focused on preserving Spring Creek Canyon while also trying to further utilize (and respect) the area as a community (Spring Creek Canyon Executive Summary.) In the Executive Summary published by Benner Township, it was mentioned several times that the township's goal was to preserve the integrity and natural resources of the land. These goals reflect the fact that Benner Township respected Spring Creek Canyon and assigned high ecological values to the property. The local citizens are associated with Benner Township in the region, which surrounds Spring Creek Canyon. As several sources have suggested (including Jen Shuey), many community members were weary about the canyon land going to Penn State because they feared what Penn State would do with the land. The fear that Penn State might develop the land or use it for purposes other than conservation represents the fact that many community members value natural resources and beauty, especial y when the natural resources are so close to citizens' property. Therefore, many local citizens saw Spring Creek Canyon as a region that should be persevered and free from development. Another set of values and perceptions of the land came from the Clearwater Conservancy, as a third-party liaison in the conflict. On their website they stated that as, "the foremost land trust and natural resource conservation organization in central Pennsylvania…work to improve central Pennsylvania for all through land conservation, water resource protection and environmental outreach to the community." (Clear Water Conservancy.) Thus, their values in regards to the canyon are based on the general protection of the environment and community outreach. That being said, the agency spoke of Spring Creek Canyon as an ecological hotspot that needed to be respected, regardless of who owned the property (Jen Shuey, 2013.) The last major contrast in values and environmental perceptions in this conflict comes from the PA Game Commission whose mission is to, "manage the Commonwealth's wildlife resources for al wildlife protection, and habitat management." (Levis & Feaser, 2011.) With this mission in mind, the core values of the organization seem to be rooted in managing and protecting wildlife resources. Because of those values, the PA Game Commission assigned a wildlife meaning to Spring Creek canyon. According to Levis & Feaser, the Game Commission spoke of Spring Creek Canyon as a "terrestrial and aquatic wildlife resource management area." 15

Overall, the theory of social construction of nature applies precisely to the Spring Creek Canyon Case study. Each major player and organization involved in the conflict held different values and mission statements, which influenced the meaning they assigned to the 1,800 acre piece of land. Due to the fact that there was such variance in organizational missions, the perspectives that many stakeholders had regarding Spring Creek Canyon varied greatly and fueled the controversy over the land as each stakeholder fought for a share of the prized property.


In conclusion, the Spring Creek Canyon controversy is a very dynamic and deep issue that has involved a variety of people and organization. The history of the region is rich and the natural resources are plentiful. The region is full of ecological diversity and presents different assets to various people. For some people SCC is a recreation area, a research opportunity, or a peaceful environment that should be preserved. Regardless of the opportunities it (SCC) presents for society, many people have deeply invested emotions and concerns over the region. Due to the variety of perspectives regarding the land, the environmental, social and economic issues at risk, and the feelings of trust among all the stakeholders, the Spring Creek Canyon region became a great controversy for the state of Pennsylvania and could potentially remain a point of concern into the future.


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Based in State College, ClearWater Conservancy is the foremost land trust and natural resource conservation organization in central Pennsylvania. Since 1980, ClearWater has worked to improve central Pennsylvania for all through land conservation, water re. (n.d.). ClearWater Conservancy. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from

Bell, M. (2012). An Invitation to Environmental Sociology (Four ed.). Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press.

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