Monocacy Hill access

Members of the Amity Township Board of Supervisors and members of the Monocacy Hill Conservation Association are both seeking to protect visitors to the Monocacy Hill Recreation Area, Geiger Road, but are at odds on how to accomplish that.

The board has discussed since 2009 the need to create a 12-foot wide and one-mile long emergency access road (that runs parallel to the old railroad bed) on a trail that is mostly rock.

Estimated cost is $20,000.

One access road has already been created on the lower side of Monocacy Hill.

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Conservation Association President Risa Marmontello asked the board at its April 2 meeting to consider constructing an eight-foot wide road instead of 12 feet.

She said a narrower road would prevent fewer now-dormant invasive species from receiving sunlight and the ability to grow.

“Allowing sunlight in allows invasives to spread faster,” said Marmontello.

“We will work with emergency responders -- all things that will increase safety at the hill, and get a professional opinion.”

Marmontello said that could include a more comprehensive policy, reviewing the township’s outdoor burning ordinance, acquainting firemen with the Hill’s layout and trails, and possibly a GPS mapping system with the county.

Following completion of the Forest Stewardship Plan in September 2009, Marmontello said trail markers were installed by an Eagle Scout, which will be connected to GPS, and “no smoking” signs were also installed on the Hill.

She said trails are constantly cleared of debris by Association volunteers, who are increasingly frustrated by the board’s insistence on creating a road that would be a large disturbance.

“There have been incidents and each time we learned a lot,” said Marmontello. “A trail would create soil disturbance and [damage] the canopy, and allow invasives to spread -- it would be a real mess with 12-foot-wide and one-mile long.”

“People love the hill and the way it is,” said Mae Ann Rehrer, secretary-treasurer of the Association. “They want to feel that they don’t see roads and signs. Families have a place to go that is real, like we did when we were kids. We know we’re taking risks when we walk there. We are all always there. We all took First Aid training. I’m 71 years old, but I can run in to the top of that hill. You don’t seem to want to ask us to help. This is a place that draws people.”

Supervisor Terry L. Jones said 12-foot-wide is what’s needed to get in there and get someone out.

“When someone dies because you couldn’t get them out, they’re not coming after you,” said Jones. “It’s a public safety issue. It’s our guys from the fire department carrying 40 pounds of gear -- we need access.”

He said the board would consider a different trail that would provide the necessary access,

One Association member said, “I don’t see the point of having to ruin what we have on the hill.”

“We’re not asking for a concrete trail,” said Jones, adding, “We need to protect our people and the people who use the hill. This was looked at by people who know what they’re doing -- not done willy-nilly.”

Board Chairperson Kimberly J. McGrath said township officials would walk the Hill with Association members and review the route, measure a 12-foot versus an eight-foot-wide access road, and discuss the effects of each.

“If the eight-foot-wide is not maintained, it becomes six feet really quick,” said McGrath.

Although timbering the Hill for an approximate revenue of $8,000 is currently on hold, Marmontello said grant money is possible through the Schuylkill Highlands.

She said there may be grant money available that matches funds in the Zenovia Lipauf Endowment Fund, created for maintenance at Monocacy Hill.