A Day on Lititz Run teaches the importance of clean water

By on June 19, 2019

Millersville environmental biology intern, Amanda Goldsmith, taught attendees how to study and gauge the health of a waterway. Photos by Stacey Sockel)

A beautiful day with blue skies and moderate temperatures at Millport Conservancy, on Saturday, June 8, was the perfect backdrop for lessons about the beautifully intertwined system that is the Mother Nature. Millport Conservancy hosted an educational day, called A Day on Lititz Run, highlighting the importance of waterway restoration and conservancy

A Day on Lititz Run was a family-friendly event designed to spark love of the outdoors through hands-on education. Participants had an opportunity to explore several stations on the 85-acres of land that surround the Millport Conservancy. Each station provided an opportunity to learn about the role that birds, bees, fish, plants, trees, humans, and, of course, water have on the award-winning restoration at Millport Conservancy and beyond.

Sarah Xenophon, a watershed technician in the Agriculture and Environment Center in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, was on hand to teach about the role that landowners, farmers and municipalities play in restoring the waterways around the county. Over half the waterways and groundwater in Lancaster County are considered unhealthy. Xenophon’s role is to engage those entities through research, education and hands-on collaboration to bring the waterways back to life. The Agriculture and Environment Center is providing innovative and low-cost way for farmers, landowners and volunteers to develop the area around streams for clean water, conservancy and climate change.

Beekeeper and owner of BeeBees All Naturals, Lori Stahl, shared information about the important role that water plays in a thriving apiary.

Just steps away from Xenophon was a thriving apiary that calls Millport Conservancy its home. Beekeeper Lori Stahl, who is a member of the Lancaster County Beekeepers Society, has 10 colonies at Millport Conservancy, but cares for bees at 15 different locations throughout Lancaster County. By keeping her apiaries small, she allows for fewer bees to share the resources available in each area, creating healthy colonies.

“It’s about diversity,” said Stahl, “I try to look for areas that have a lots of good natural forage available for the bees.”

The bees at Millport Conservancy are an important part of the cyclical nature of the healthy habitat being created by the watershed. Without the bees pollinating the plants, the meadow would not grow. The bees also utilize the water from the stream to keep their hive at just the right temperature through evaporative cooling.

“All summer long there are tons of bees going right to the water at the stream and coming back to the hive with water,” she said. “They fan over the water and that’s what helps to cool the hive and regulate the temperature inside there. There is a very precise widow that they like to keep their hive at over the summer.”

Event co-host, Donegal Trout Unlimited, provided several opportunities for education throughout the day’s event. Educator Rebecca Whitsan, who volunteers with Donegal Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program, brought her curriculum out of the classroom and into the conservancy to help instill the love of nature, through hands-on education about the watershed and the native trout that call it home.

Eric Gelssner, a volunteer with the Lancaster County Conservation District, shows off a trout caught in Lititz Run. The fish was later released.

Whitsan’s passion for conservancy started when she was young.

“I had someone take me outside when I was young and we went fishing and hiking,” said Whitsan. “I learned to love, but also respect nature”

She found a way to combine her experience as an elementary school teacher and love of the outdoors by volunteering for Trout in the Classroom. Through this program and events like A Day on Lititz Run, she is able to spark that same passion and understanding in children who don’t have that person in their life to show them the joy of fishing and playing in the water.

Donegal Trout Unlimited board member Derek Eberly, was also on hand at Millport Conservancy to share the importance of preserving our waterways and to demonstrate the art of fly-fishing. Fly-fishing is an angling style that uses a light-weight lure, called a fly, which is designed to resemble the insects that attract fish. Avid angler and casting instructor, Eberly, provided demonstrations of how to cast the perfect line. With just a little bit of finesse and a whole lot of practice, anyone can master the art of fly-fishing, but on Saturday it was all about starting with the basics. Eberly guided participants through the motions and helped them tweak their casts. According to Eberly, casting a good line is not about working too hard or using too much power, it is about the motion and finding that “sweet spot.”

A few steps away on the stream at Millport Conservancy, Millersville University intern Amanda Goldsmith was leading a stream study for macro invertebrate samples to test the quality of the water. Children were splashing in the stream with nets, helping find samples for the study, including tiny insects and invertebrates, but also some pretty big crawfish.

Upstream, Matt Kofroth, Nate Straw and Eric Gelssner, who were representing the Lancaster County Conservation District, demonstrated catch and release fishing to provide education on the native trout. The crowd was in awe of the approximately 18-inch trout that they caught in the stream. Kofroth provided education on how you can tell the wild trout from the approximately 14,000 trout that are released into streams across Lancaster County by the Lititz Sportsmen’s Association trout hatchery. Wild trout will be more vibrant in color and their fins will have a rounded edge.

A Day on Lititz Run was part of Lancaster Conservancy’s 2019 Water Week, a seven-day focus across the Lancaster County community on the importance of clean water and our role as citizens in protecting that resource.

Stacey Sockel is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes comments at staceymariesockel@gmail.com.

Derek Eberly, board member with Donegal Trout Unlimited, illustrates the art of fly-fishing.

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