He loves his lake Local man’s effort to save Speedwell

By on August 7, 2013


ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

Will Turnbull and companion Missy McMahon look on at the crowd.

For Will Turnbull, Speedwell Forge Lake is a sanctuary – a place of calming serenity. When he learned that the lake had been drained in November 2011, he took action. The 38-year old Lititz resident, who is autistic, raised $500 to donate to the Save Speedwell group and was honored for his effort on July 25 when the organization planted a tree in his honor.

The pink flowering dogwood was planted near the pavilion that overlooks the drained lake – a lake that Save Speedwell and Turnbull hope will again be a habitat for fish and wildlife and provide recreation opportunities for many.

"Will’s effort was a nice challenge to the rest of the community. He’s demonstrated that everyone has something that he or she con contribute," said Andrea Becker, Save Speedwell president.

"Will’s effort has inspired me. I can see how much Speedwell means to him by the fact that he put his heart and soul into raising funds to help restore the lake," said Milt Lauch, secretary of Save Speedwell.

Will’s parents, Ellie and Jim Turnbull, explained that he is a very caring person and has done some exceptional things. He holds a B.A. in English from Millersville University, and he’s been a speaker at seminars and autism conferences. But, he rarely speaks, nor does he write – he communicates via a computer program.

"Will has never let his autism define him," said Missy McMahon, Will’s caregiver, a position she’s held since October 2012.

Will’s mother, Ellie Turnbull, explained that people with autism often experience sensory overload.

"Will started coming to Speedwell Forge Lake about five years ago," Ellie said. "He enjoys the serenity-even when there were people on the lake or picnicking, it’s a peaceful, serene place."

For several years, he’s made chocolate covered pretzel rods to sell at The Curiosity Shoppe, 61 E. Main St., Lititz. The pretzel rods may be described as "gourmet" – they’re dipped in chocolate and then decorated with sprinkles or other items such as candy hearts for a seasonal flair, bagged and tied with a festive ribbon. When Will learned that there was a possibility that his sanctuary would no longer exist, he decided to dedicate a portion of the sales of the pretzel rods to the Save Speedwell effort.

Ellie said that originally he had set a goal of selling 2,000 pretzel rods, which would raise $1,000 for the Save Speedwell organization. However since learning earlier this year that the organization received grant funding to help defray the cost of removing legacy sediment from the lake, Will decided to donate the $500 that had been raised to-date.

"He will always come here, and now he’ll feel that he’s had a part in helping to restore it," his mother said.

The 106-acre Speedwell Forge Lake, a public lake maintained by the state Fish and Boat Commission, was drained in 2011 after the dam’s emergency spillway developed cracks from heavy rains from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee earlier that year making it structurally unsound. Members of the Save Speedwell organization and residents were joined by local legislators in pushing for repairs to be made to the dam and the lake refilled.

"We’re a community organization that helps facilitate what the community wants," Becker said of the Save Speedwell organization.

Lauch said that in February Save Speedwell was notified that the organization and the state Fish and Boat Commission were awarded a $432,509 Growing Greener grant from the state department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remove 37,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lake-bed.

"We’ll be removing sediment from nearly 1,000-feet along the edge of the lake. Just before the lake was drained that area was three-feet deep; the sediment we’re removing will take it back to a depth of eight-feet, which is what it was when the lake was first constructed. This will also improve the lake as a habitat for fish," he explained.

The organization has worked with LandStudies, Lititz, on this project. As part of the grant application process some of the sediment, which Lauch describes as great topsoil, was removed for testing and was determined to be clean fill that can be used anywhere. In fact some of the sediment was used to plant the tree in Turnbull’s honor.

The organization anticipates that the project to remove the sediment will be done in the fall and is seeking farmers, landscapers, developers, topsoil retailers and land owners who want to receive a large volume of the excavated soil for reuse or fill.

Funding of $6.4 million to repair the dam was secured in Gov. Corbett’s 2013 budget. Eric Levis, Fish and Boat Commission press secretary, reported on July 29 that the commission plans to submit a final engineering plan to DEP for approval in September, and once it is approved, the project would be bid out. He said that the commission anticipates construction to begin next summer with completion targeted for the end of 2014 or early 2015.

To learn more about acquiring a free clean fill of sediment or other upcoming news about Speedwell, visit savespeedwell.org.

More TURNBULL, page A16

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