Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) just got a little bigger with the acquisition of the former Camp Hidden Falls property in Lehman Township, Pike County.

BUSHKILL - Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) just got a little bigger with the acquisition of  the former Camp Hidden Falls property in Lehman Township, Pike County. 

“We are very grateful to all of the partners who worked so diligently together to find funding and purchase this important property so that it can be preserved for future generations to enjoy,” said Deputy Superintendent Keith Farrar in a press release. “This acquisition is a wonderful example of how collaborative conservation efforts can benefit both the environment and the public.”   
 
1,054-acres

Consisting of 1,054 acres, Camp Hidden Falls was a camp owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP). The camp was closed their doors in 2012 in an effort to consolidate camp resources.

Looking for a way to preserve the land for generations ahead, GSEP contacted several conservation organizations including The Delaware Highlands Conservancy and the Natural Lands (formerly Natural Lands Trust). 

After five years of planning and fundraising by several organizations, the property was purchased in May 2017 by The Conservation Fund (TCF) for $4.5 million. Subsequently, the parcel was transferred to the National Park Service on April 23, 2018. 

Camp buildings were taken down and Sunset Lake was drained by removal of the dam, before the property was purchased. What remains is a large tract of upland forest with 15 acres of wetlands, eight waterfalls, and two miles of pristine streams.

The former Girl Scout camp surrounds Sunset Lake, on Sunset Lake Road, Lehman Township, close to Delaware Township. It is near Milford Road SR 2001, which in this section mostly follows the western boundary of the DWGNRA. The newly purchased parcel is separated from the rest of the DWGNRA by less than a half mile.
 
Funding sources

The majority of the funding for this recent addition to the national recreation area came from the Middle Delaware Mitigation Fund (MDMF) which is administered by TCF on behalf of the National Park Service, was the source of most of the funding.

The $66 million fund was established as compensatory mitigation for the impacts of the construction upgrades to the Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line project, which cuts through Pike County and the DWGNRA. 

Of that amount, $20 million has been earmarked specifically for land acquisition and stewardship projects.  TCF also secured several grants that provided additional funding for the purchase of the property, the Park Service noted. Those grants include $300,000 from the Doris Duke Foundation; $400,000 from the William Penn Foundation; and $800,000 from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
 
Great potential seen

The Park Service is currently developing a comprehensive Visitor Use Management Plan and through that process is assessing current and future visitor needs and developing strategies to meet those needs while also protecting the park’s natural, cultural, and scenic resources, said Kathleen Sandt, spokesperson for the DWGNRA. 

According to Kristy Boscheinen, Environmental Compliance Officer for the park, “This property has great potential for resource-based recreational activities such as hiking, camping, and hunting.  We will know more about what the future may hold once we have completed environmental and feasibility studies to determine which uses would be appropriate.” 

The park will seek public input on those studies and plans as they are being developed.
The property is seen as important connection that will aid in making a future connection between the 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and a 20,000 acre expanse of the Delaware State Forest.

Girl Scout camp

Camp Hidden Falls was formerly dedicated in July 1960, according to a website devoted to the history of Girl Scout camping, www.vintagegirlscout.com. An advertisement from 1972 read “Camp Hidden Falls - A Dream Come True for All Girls 7 to 17.” Potential campers were told, “Climb a Pocono, canoe the lake, swim in the pool, hike woodsy trail, discover the falls.”

About 260 campers could be accommodated at Camp Hidden Falls.

In 2012 the GSEP made the difficult decision to close Camp Hidden Falls, a result of a drive to consolidate camp operations and improve facilities at remaining sites.

Liz D’Angel, spokesperson for GSEP, said that they were committed to “finding a conservation solution to the property” so the help of the Conservation Fund was sought. GSEP currently operates four overnight camps and three day camps. One of the overnight camps, Camp Mosey Woods, is in the Poconos (Carbon County).

Based in Media, PA, since 1996, Natural Lands has helped preserve more than 8,000 acres of former Girl and Boy Scout camps in the region.

“For generations, Girl and Boy Scouting have been ways for kids to experience nature in a deeply personal way. These vivid experiences—like sinking your toes into the mud at the bottom of a swimming pond, learning to build a campfire, or finding the constellations on a starry night—can catalyze a life-long love of the natural world,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands and Girl Scout alumnus, in a press release issued by The Conservation Fund. “Natural Lands applauds GSEP for finding a conservation solution for Camp Hidden Falls, and we’re so glad to have helped make it possible.”

Kim Fraites-Dow, chief executive officer of GSEP, spoke on behalf of her organization. “After a multi-year study and thoughtful decision-making process and analysis, our council made the difficult decision to divest of this property,” she said. “We were committed to finding a conservation solution and are pleased that through the addition of this essential large parcel to the Delaware Water Gap, our partner, the National Park Service, will be able to provide contiguous access to an exceptionally beautiful part of Pennsylvania, and that this land will be preserved for future generations.”

For more information about Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, call park headquarters, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 570-426-2452. Visit their website at www.nps.gov/dewa and Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Del/WaterGapNPS.