Sunday, April 12, 2015

Major Changes Coming To Winslow Hill Viewing Areas

Major changes are coming to the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill Viewing Areas, with construction of a new parking lot and the relocation of a portion of Dewey Road scheduled to begin on April 27, 2015. The project has been scaled back somewhat from what was originally planned and restrooms will not be built at this time.  The primary purpose of this is to improve traffic safety  as the current entrance to Dewey Road is located on a sharp curve with limited visibility to the south. Also the parking lot along Winslow Hill Road has unregulated access to the road over a significant distance, which increases the chance of collisions..

Winslow Hill Road- Dewey Road Entrance To Left
Parking Lot Along Winslow Hill Road
The new parking lot is to be just in front of the old one.  The upper portion of Dewey Rd will intersect with Winslow Hill Rd somewhere near or past the end of the old parking lot shown in the photo above. To access the new parking lot one will travel a short distance on Dewey Rd to the entrance.  Provisions will be made to gate the parking lot and close it to the public when desired. There are currently no plans to close Dewey Rd at any time as it is a public Township Road, which provides access to multiple landowners as well as the large area of State Game Lands 311 at the end of Dewey Rd.

As important, or perhaps more important to many is the decision to add the area known as "The Saddle" to The Restricted Area beginning June 1, 2015.  This effectively means that from that date The Saddle is to be posted with restricted area signs the same as the areas along Dewey Road and users will be required to follow the designated routes, which will be the same or much the same as the trails that were established for horse and bicycle riders.  This is effective until the last Saturday in September or the first day of archery  deer season.  I am not completely clear on this point, but it  should be posted plainly on the restricted area signs.

All Users Will Be Required To Stay On Designated Routes During Restricted Period
 Officials point to increased visitation to the area and pressure on the resource as reason for the changes.
In 1998 there was an estimated  72,000 visitors to  Pennsylvania Elk Country, while in 2014 it was reported that over 400, 000 people passed through Elk Country Visitor Center. In light of increased traffic and congestion on Winslow Hill and the drastic increase of use of the Dewey Road--Saddle Area in particular, The Pennsylvania Game Commission began placing more emphasis on controlling secondary users such as horse and bicycle riders last year, when designated routes for horse and bicycle riders  were plainly marked  and an extensive public relations campaign was implemented to make the public aware of the regulations.

Actually State Game Lands regulations have required for many years that horses and bicycles be used only on designated routes unless one is actively engaged in legal hunting or trapping.  It is also illegal to ride  a non-motorized vehicle, conveyance or animal from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January, and prior to one hour after close of lawful hunting hours for spring turkey season from the second Saturday in April through the last Saturday in May, inclusive, except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.

Most are aware of the recent attempt on the part of certain members of the PGC board of commissioners to ban all secondary users from the SGLs during the period of time that horses and bicycles are banned, but I have been told that at this point it doesn't seem likely  this will happen and that  nature enthusiasts will be permitted to walk anywhere in The Saddle from the end of the restricted period until the next June, but one would do well to remember that anything can change at any time.

Test Hill-Former State Forest Land  runs along edge of meadow to right
At this point it is not completely clear just where the designated routes will be, but generally speaking they will be much the same if not the exact same as they were  last year.  An important point to remember is there is no longer any State Forest Land in The Saddle (many will recall the white boundary markers that are plainly visible along the edge of the woods on Test Hill once the foliage is gone and not as noticeable along the entire lower edge of The Saddle). This land was acquired from DCNR by the PGC as part of a lands trade and is now part of SGL 311 and as such may be restricted to what extent the PGC may decide.

I hope to discuss this a bit more as well as deal with more changes that are coming in another post  in the near future.
Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Unknown said...

Wow! Thanks for keeping us updated about this. Look forward to more posts on this Willard. Cora

Linda G. said...

Thank you for the valuable information!

Unknown said...

Willard, thanks for keeping us up to date with this important information for us wildlife enthusiasts who do not live near the area.