Mill Cove 2018 meeting of volunteers at the pavilion photo

Mill Cove board members listen to Rawley Cogan at their 2018 meeting talk about his work with elk in western Pennsylvania at the Mill Cove pavilion.

Once just a wild, undeveloped area frequented mainly by hunters, deer and rabbits, the Mill Cove Recreation Area has become the location of several community events.

The Mill Cove Association began in 1999 as the idea of a group of Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce members who wanted to see the area developed into something more.

Fred LaVancher of Tioga was among those original members of the Mill Cove Association, and remains on the board of directors today.

The land, acquired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the 1972 flood, is leased by the association. From the beginning the association’s goal was to create not only an outdoor recreation area for the public to enjoy, but also to build an environmental learning center on the property.

“When the Tioga-Hammond Dam project was a reality, productive farm land was lost and a new recreational area planned. It never came to be. Now 40 years later, Mill Cove is taking an under-utilized resource and turning it into a facility which can be used for generations to come,” an association brochure states.

To continue developing such an ambitious project, LaVancher said the total anticipated investment in the area is close to $3 million, including secured and future grants.

“We already have expended in excess of $600,000 that has been put into such improvements as pavilions, comfort stations, the trail system, the Growing Greener Streambank Restoration project, a storage building, shooting range and a primitive camping area, which was an Eagle Scout project by Benjamin Wolf,” LaVancher said.

LaVancher said the result of the efforts of many volunteers under the direction of the association is a “unique, pristine area is being used and enjoyed by many people.”

Many events have been held at Mill Cove to date that have impacted thousands of persons with environmental programs and recreation. Several events have generated millions of dollars in economic impact for the region and continue to go strong.

The N.R.A.’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge brings youth from all parts of the country and provides a strong boost to the economy during their visit every other year.

More than 1,000 people also gather each spring for an Earth Day event filled with displays, vendors and programs.

A zipline is popular with youth to senior citizens and the Baywings Falconry’s live presentation is educational and entertaining.

Nearby Mansfield University is a primary partner through its Institute for Science and the Environment.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been developed between Mill Cove and MU which provides for various environmental and biological courses offered by the university to utilize the site as an outdoor laboratory and learning center. Courses in watershed management, fisheries development, water quality monitoring and biology have utilized the Mill Cove site for field experiences. Teacher workshops, environmental career days and nature camps have also attracted numerous high school classes to the area.

Scouting groups and school students can use the area for wildlife identification, orienteering, survival training, camping and outdoor cooking, hunter safety training, nature observation and hiking. The recently completed shooting range provides an ideal venue for firearm safety classes.

Mill Cove Environmental Education Center

The proposed Environmental Education Center will include classrooms, meeting and research facilities, and an outdoor learning laboratory.

The architectural firm, A.J.H Design of Elmira Heights, N.Y., has been engaged to develop design plans for the centerpiece of the Mill Cove Master Plan. LEED certification is being pursued to incorporate green technologies while at the same time having minimal impact on the surroundings.

The Environmental Educational Building will consist of a meeting room for approximately 50 people, rest rooms, small kitchen area to support catering, a great hall which will double as an exhibit area and an administrative office and maintenance/utility area. Plans include laboratory and research facilities for use by Mansfield University geoscience faculty and students.

Building aesthetics will follow the Pennsylvania Wilds design standards: a rustic theme with durable, low-maintenance materials.

An outdoor learning area is planned with a fire pit and a campfire circle and an outdoor patio overlooking the Mill Creek Valley will complete the facility.

Mill Cove Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so any donations to the group are tax-deductable. To support it, send donations to Mill Cove Inc., 54 South Main Street Mansfield, PA 16933. For more information, email flavancher@stny.rr.com or 570-835-5240.