Lancaster city's little-known waterfowl magnet
By Ad Crable, Outdoors Writer email@example.com
Since the mid-1980s, when the former Brenner Quarry closed and filled with water, the Sunnyside peninsula has been a hidden and little-known oasis for thousands of migratory waterfowl in fall and winter.
Since it never freezes and is hemmed in by steep hillsides, the quarry in the city is an important refuge for an impressive lineup of geese and duck species, not to mention the occasional eagle and osprey.
I paid a brief visit at midday last week, escorting Marietta bird-watcher Meredith Lombard. It's a time of day when many waterfowl are out feeding in farm fields, and I cautioned Meredith not to expect much.
To my mild surprise and great delight, here is what Meredith spied in less than a half-hour: 2,400 Canada geese, two snow geese, two widgeon, 15 black ducks, 25 mallards, two ring-necked ducks, 12 common mergansers, one pied-billed grebe, three great blue herons, one coot, one red-shouldered hawk, two red-tailed hawks and assorted land birds.
Check out the cacophonous video of all these birds coming and going at LancasterOnline.com. Click on "Sports," then "Outdoors."
Since I live in the Bridgeport area, I hear the incoming wedges of honking geese and quacking ducks daily in the winter months.
But lately I've been fretting that upcoming development of the Sunnyside peninsula will cause this waterfowl magnet to be abandoned.
The long-delayed Sunnyside project (formerly named New Town but renamed Sunnyside after the Newtown, Conn., shootings) is working its way through city planners.
Community Basics, the nonprofit housing development group behind the project, hopes to break ground this year.
The plans for a new urban neighborhood would include 300 housing units built on the peninsula, a mix of single-family homes, apartments and bungalows.
Would all that scare away the birds?
Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's public works director, thinks not.
"The plan does call for multi-use paths around the quarry and through the community," she said in an email. "There is a good setback and few homes near the edges. So I would envision the quarry remaining a haven for all kinds of waterfowl."
I also posed my concerns to Ken Smith, executive director of Community Basics.
"I don't think it will have an effect on wildlife at all," he said. "We won't be infringing on the berm of the forests."
Smith said there will indeed be some homes on top of the steep highwalls that will afford homeowners a view of the quarry. But he said the houses themselves will be set back and not perched right on the edge.
And Smith said that there will be public trails in the flood plain that borders one edge of the quarry. The nonpaved trails will be maintained by the city and will give the public the chance to view the quarry and its spectacle of waterfowl.
As for now, however, the land surrounding the quarry is posted as off-limits by the city.