Since Lacawac Sanctuary was founded in 1966 along the shore of Lake Wallenpaupack, environmental education, along with study of natural resources, has been a prime goal. Promoting and inspiring interest in the subject among young people is behind a major new step for Lacawac, a planned education center.

SALEM TWP. - Since Lacawac Sanctuary was founded in 1966 along the shore of Lake Wallenpaupack, environmental education, along with study of natural resources, has been a prime goal. Promoting and inspiring interest in the subject among young people is behind a major new step for Lacawac, a planned education center.

To that end, Lacawac has announced receipt of a $111,450 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR). Craig Lukatch- Setser, President of the Lacawac Sanctuary Biological Field Station & Environmental Education Center, said this funding is very significant in that it covers half of the estimated $220,000 cost.

Governor Tom Wolf recently announced the award, which is part of an investment of $44 million for 266 projects across Pennsylvania that will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.

"Communities go from good to great when they provide residents and visitors with parks and trails, access to waterways, and opportunities for healthy outdoor activity,” Governor Wolf said. “This $44 million in grants will support communities throughout Pennsylvania working to protect and improve natural amenities for our citizens.”

​​Lukatch explained that the funding supports a new Environmental STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Education Center. It will be used to purchase 0.8 acres of land within the heart of Lacawac Sanctuary, that includes the Watres family home.

Louis Arthur Watres and his mother Isabel donated land around the parcel in 1966 to establish the 550 acre Lacawac Sanctuary. Mr. Watres died at the age of 91, in January 2014; he had been a tireless advocate of Lacawac and its mission from the start.

Lacawac seeks to educate the next generation of environmental stewards and strengthen academic achievement by providing hands-on, indoor and outdoor educational programs for preschool through12th grade. Programs that Lacawac conducts align with the goals of nearby school districts.

A capital campaign was launched to transform its field station into a hub for research and educational opportunities.

More fundraising will be needed to renovate the existing building, Lukatch said. Renovations include a new conference space (Pavilion Room) off the back the building capable of seating 75-100 people, converting the garage to an educational program space with an ADA bathroom, a new septic system and a new entrance.

The proposed Pavilion Room is the primary new addition and multi-use meeting space recommended within a new Watres Hall. The new wing is conceived to be a one-story structure attached to the south side of the Watres House – with the new Pavilion Room as ADA-accessible, at a finished floor elevation flush with the existing living room space and converting the two south-facing picture windows into gracious french doors. 

The Pavilion Room would fit between the east and west wings and the new roof-line would be a shed design that would be hidden visually behind the primary gable peak from most vantage points along the north entry area into the new Hall, thus conserving most of the original shapes and the original sense of scale of the Watres home, Lukatch stated.

He added that the Pavilion Room is envisioned as a clear span space approximately 40x40 feet with simple but dramatic shed roof planes that allow light in from the south and focus views on Heron Pond. 

The interior space would be designed as an open plan for flexible use, and include storage space and fire-rated stairway to the lower level classroom area with an exit to grade on the south side.

One floor plan layout option for meeting uses is displayed where the podium and screen are along an opaque west wall – which turns the audience away from facing into the sun direction.

The east side can be used for buffet or support tables, leaving the south wall to be operable glass doors that open onto the exterior deck.

"Lacawac Sanctuary is honored to awarded the grant from DCNR to help us make our dream of establishing a STEAM Education Center a reality,” Lukatch said. “The growth we have seen over the last few years is incredible and we are looking forward to having more students and learners of all ages come to Lacawac to become better Earth Stewards.”

 They hope to have a ribbon cutting ceremony once they acquire the home. The ground breaking will not begin until Lacawac secures some seed funding to begin the project, he stated.

 Located on the southwest shore of Lake Wallenpaupack in Salem and Paupack Townships, Wayne County, the Lacawac Sanctuary Foundation plays an important role in the preservation of Lake Lacawac which is one of the southernmost glacial lakes in the hemisphere and has been preserved in pristine condition free from development and encroachment. For more information visit www.lacawac.org.