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Chestnut Ridge Historical Society hosts watershed speaker

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Cami DiBattista | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Roger Pritts, co-president of the Mountain Watershed Association, addresses members of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society during the group's recent monthly meeting. Pritts discussed some of the association's recently completed projects.

Since 1994, the Mountain Watershed Association, a nonprofit organization, has been working to protect, preserve and restore waterways in the Indian Creek Valley.

At the March meeting of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society, Roger Pritts, the water shed association's co-president and a lifetime valley resident, conducted a slide presentation and discussion about projects successfully completed to date.

“Our goal is to improve the water quality in our area, and to develop community awareness,” Pritts said.

The association, established 20 years ago to remediate abandoned mine drainage in the Indian Creek Valley watershed, has addressed issues such as acidic discharge in tributaries throughout the watershed.

Educational outreach, monitoring and documentation of environmental data in the Laurel Highlands are ways that the organization works to protect the region, Pritts said.

Treatment of 11 of the worst mine drainage discharges in the area will result in a 95 percent restoration of Indian Creek, according to the organization's website.

Pritts discussed numerous water projects, and of work completed on the Indian Creek Valley Trail.

A 9-mile stretch of the trail has been completely cleared with five more partially finished.

Upon completion, the trail will run from Jones Mills downstream to the Youghiogheny River.

The association ultimately envisions a crossing so the trail can serve as a tributary of the Great Allegheny Passage, Pritts said.

“Indian Creek Valley is a prime location for tourists — drawing hundreds of thousands of people to our area every year,” he said. “Those tourists spend money and use resources here. For every $1 spent on mine drainage, $2.40 goes back to the local economy.”

Additional projects of the MWA including the Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project, which advocates for tighter regulations on shale gas development.

The program will provide citizens with tools and knowledge to monitor Marcellus shale activity in their communities, Pritts said.

Pritts also discussed various upcoming fundraisers designed to benefit association projects.

They include the “Build a Bridge” fundraiser — in which donations are being collected to “buy a plank” for the project — and the Clean Water Banquet and Silent Auction scheduled for April 26 at Brady's Restaurant in Acme.

“I've used the trails in Indian Creek Valley all my life; you don't realize how special it is up here,” said Mary Ellen Meyn, whose family owners property along the creek.

“I'm so pleased with the efforts Roger and the MWA are putting into it,” she said.

Members of the society said they found the meeting to be very informative.

“I'm amazed at what the MWA has accomplished, and what they're continuing to do,” said Peggy Shepler, the society's vice-president.

Pritts encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about the association to visit mtwatershed.com.

“I don't know if there's a more beautiful place to fish then the Laurel Highlands,” Pritts said. “We sometimes take for granted this amazing place where we live,” he said.

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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