Thursday, October 15, 2009

Confrontation At Elk Mountain Homestead

It was Friday evening September 25th, 2009 and Elk Mountain Homestead was a busy place, with a lot of horseback riders skirting the edges of the fields and in one case riding into the center of the central portion of the meadows. Photographers and elk watchers on foot were also scattered about the area, while a number of elk ranged the meadows.

Distant Riders Skirt Edge Of Meadows

Riders Enjoying An Up-close look

A small group of people were strategically positioned near the center of the meadow complex, watching as this activity unfolded around them. As this was taking place another group of elk watchers and photographers parked near the driveway to Elk Mountain Homestead and walked directly to this area where the action was taking place.

Encounter Occurred At Edge Of Woodlands Behind And To Left Of Bull

At least two of these persons are long time RMEF members, with those accompanying them being family members. In a short time they came near the group of people positioned near the center of the meadow complex. It turned out that this group was led by Cody Cogan, son of Rawley Cogan. Cogan accosted the leader of the group and asked him if he was the one who had the Homestead rented for the weekend. The leader said that he was not and asked if there was a problem. Cogan informed him that there was as the area was a wildlife sanctuary and he was not permitted to be there unless he was the person who was renting the homestead at present.

At this point the leader of the group told Cogan that he was a member and an official of The RMEF. As far as he was concerned his membership dues and donations had helped buy the property and he had every right to be there. He told Cogan that they had been over the controversy repeatedly with The RMEF leadership in Missoula, and that he and his party were not going to leave, at which point Cogan reportedly told him to enjoy his evening. He also inquired of Cogan as to why he singled him out for attention when there were numerous riders and several other persons on foot in the meadows also. Cogan reportedly said that this would be addressed in the near future by the St. Marys Chapter of The RMEF. According to the RMEF member, Cogan indicated that he had "dignitaries" with him. He also allegedly made the usual statement to the effect that the public should bear with them, and in a year the area would be open for the world to see.

This raised important questions such as what was Cody Cogan's authority in the situation? Why was he authorized to have quests there, while it was wrong for other RMEF members and family to be in the area? How is the RMEF going to address the problem with riders in the fields, if the RMEF has withdrawn from the project.

He may have been reflexively responding to a tense situation, with answers tailored to a situation in which his father was in complete control of the property, but at this point that reign was ending, unless Rawley Cogan was appointed by The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, to continue spearheading the project.

At this point it appears likely that Mr. Cogan will continue to be involved with the project, according to an editorial by Jeff Mulhollem in the October 9, 2009 edition of Pennsylvania Outdoor News.


Anonymous said...

Nice photo of the large bull.
I'm amazed at what seems to be tension in that area. I'm noticing some cliques in Benezette. It seems if you know "someone", you can do something whether it is permitted or not.
I guess that is expected in a small town.
It's a shame that they're giving the RMEF somewhat of a bad name with all of the talking and some members threatening to withdrawl.
Everyone should work together for the good of the land and the wildlife.
Can the visitors center be built without the RMEF? Also, are you personally for the center or against it? I guess I'm about 30% for it. I don't want it make Benezette lose it's small town appeal.

Willard said...

It seems possible that it can be built without the RMEF, but it is by no means a sure thing.

I hope to address the second part of your question in future posts, but the short answer is that I am not opposed to the idea of a visitors center of a certain scope, but there are many legitimate concerns about negative impacts on the area if the concept is implemented as it is currently planned.

sfriel said...

Great article. It seems that the REMF is done with this now and hopefully the state will be considerate of the residents and land owners in the area. What will happen to the funds that were raised for this project and who has control of them? Should the state ask for input from possibly the REMF and the area politicians in an open forum to set a course for this project?

Great shot by the way!


Nick S said...

Wow, I'm loving those bull Elks ! Fantastic Willard.

Tom said...

This seems very tense Willard... I have grown to trust you and the way you report stuff.. you seem to have many views which I'm sure I would share.
Apart from all this tension I am happy to see you kept your head and get the shots you did... great post as I'm sure it will get folks talking.


Anonymous said...

I like the photos on the post but not the confrontation.

Jeff Thomas said...

Hey Willard,
The picture of the large bull is amazing.The story tells it like it was. I attended a RMEF meeting in Harrisburg October the 6th to hear the reasons for getting rid of the Homestead project. They say it was strictly a financial decision,time will tell. Cody was there and was not very friendly toward me. He gave the RMEF officals a real tongue lashing and said they need to treat their volunteers better. I hope he remembers this next year when he and his dad are running the Homestead and Vistors Center. Keep up the good work and see you later.