See more about the 2023 Conservationist Award under NEWS
See more about the 2023 Conservationist Award under NEWS
Steve Leiendecker worked much of his career as Pa Game Commission Land Manager for Fayette and Greene counties in Western Pennsylvania. In that role, he supervised the protection, management, and improvement of state game lands. His duties included care of state Game Land No.51 in the mountains above Dunbar. This track of mountain land embraces the headwaters of Dunbar Creek, including Glade Run, the tributary stream that CRTU has worked to restore from abandoned mine drainage pollution since 1998.
The pollution sources that we have worked to remedy occur outside game lands boundaries, but our treatment sites lie within the game lands and Steve’s jurisdiction. As land manager, Steve has been a dependable and constant supporter of CRTU’s projects on Game Lands 51. He helped us understand and comply with regulations for accessing game lands with vehicles and heavy equipment, unlocked gates for us late in the evening or early in the morning, used Game Commission equipment to improve our placement of alkaline sand at the treatment sites, worked with us to plan litter cleanups, and initiated the reclamation of a badly deteriorated portion of the Betty Knox Road that had been a source of mud and sediment into Dunbar Creek, and a site for dumping tires and trash.
Steve also helped us establish our new treatment site on Jonathan Run, in Ohiopyle State Park but which must be accessed through state game lands.
Many times, Steve could have simply said, “Our regulations don’ts allow that” or “Helping to restore trout is not part of the Game Commission’s mission.” But he never did. Always, unfailing, Steve Leiendecker found a way to help us o improve Dunbar Creek’s water quality, and the recreational experience of trout fishermen who enjoy State Game Lands No.51.
Thank you, Steve, for many years of support, cooperation, and friendship!
Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited conducted its annual litter cleanup on Dunbar Creek, SR 1055, and adjacent portions of State Game Lands No. 51 on Saturday, March 25. The chapter has been cleaning Dunbar Creek and surroundings on the Saturday before trout season since 1995. The effort resulted in 28 bags of trash, 3 tires and one toilet tank removed from the creek and woods for collection by PennDot. Pictured here, from left, are CRTU members John Gulya, Joe Yuhas, Nick Yuhas, Dennis Croft, and Doc Welling. Also pictured, continuing from left, are Zach Hay, state game warden, Rob Masi, deputy state game warden, and Brooke Hargenrader, state game warden, who joined in the cleanup. CRTU members who participated but are not pictured are: Candy Gordon, Eugene Gordon, and Pete Martin.
photo by Ben Moyer
Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited received a prestigious award at the annual Martin Luther King Jr., breakfast held at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Uniontown on January 16, 2023. The East End United Community Center (EEUCC) presented CRTU with its Martin Luther King Jr., Service Award in recognition of the chapter providing trout-fishing opportunities to youth affiliated with the Center.
“Our Award Committee for this event chose to honor your organization for your continued partnership, impactful work, and dedication of service to the East End United Community Center over the years,” stated Terry L. Burden, EEUCC Board vice-president, and Steve Strange, EEUCC executive director in a letter inviting representatives of the chapter to attend the breakfast and receive the award.
CRTU president Ben Moyer represented the chapter at the event.
“To be recognized for something we enjoy doing is humbling,” Moyer said. “This award goes to all the many members of our chapter who work together to make these fishing events happen. We know how much joy, peace, and satisfaction we have been privileged to experience through trout fishing our region’s beautiful streams. So, we feel a responsibility to share that with others, especially youth. It is our hope that for them, fishing can be an avenue to understand that nature and the outdoors are options in their lives, and that they might become advocates for clean water.”
Since 2018 CRTU has used trout raised in its cooperative nursery in the Youghiogheny Reservoir tailrace to offer a trout fishing experience to EEUCC youth and to other youth fishing events around the region. CRTU acknowledges the help of Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau for grants that help fund the trout nursery, Ohiopyle State Park, where the first EEUCC fishing event was held, South Union Township for hosting subsequent events at the Jim Tobal Youth Fishing Area at the township’s Community Park in Hopwood, Friends of Jim Tobal for volunteering at the events, Wilderness Voyageurs for providing life-vests to ensure kids’ safety near water, Lowes of Uniontown for donating trees for a tree-planting project, and to S&S Bait and Tackle of Chalk Hill for providing tackle and bait at discount prices for youth events.
“The kids really look forward to going fishing with Trout Unlimited,” said Marilyn Calloway, EEUCC board member. “We appreciate Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited’s efforts and hope this relationship will continue for a long time.”
Marilyn Calloway, East End United Community Center board member (left) presents the Center’s Martin Luther King Jr., Service Award to Ben Moyer, CRTU president (center). Dr. W. Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Fayette Campus, EEUCC board member and master of ceremonies looks on.
A grant from BHE GT&S, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company, supports a key aspect of Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s 25-year commitment to restore Glade Run, a tributary to Dunbar Creek polluted by abandoned and unsuccessfully reclaimed surface mines. Dunbar Creek is designated as a Catch-and-Release, Fly-Fishing-Only stream by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The grant, awarded in 2022 through the BHE GT&S Watershed Mini-Grant Program, pays for water sampling within the Glade Run basin and for the expensive analysis of water samples by an accredited laboratory. The $800 award supplements nearly a half-million dollars invested by the Chestnut Ridge Chapter to restore Glade Run since 1998. Those funds came from the state’s Growing Greener program, the Coldwater Heritage Partnership, the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Fayette County Conservation District, and from funds the chapter raised through its popular annual banquet.
Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited, headquartered at Uniontown, constructed a passive acid-mine-drainage treatment system on Glade Run’s headwaters in 2003 and has continued a twice-yearly program of dosing Glade Run and two tributaries with finely crushed limestone “sand” from approved quarry sources since 1998. Both methods neutralize sulfuric acid discharged from inactive mines, and add alkalinity, a chemical property important in aquatic ecosystems. By funding the restoration effort’s water sampling component, the BHE GT&S grant enables Trout Unlimited to track improvements in water quality resulting from its work.
“We considered it tragic that a beautiful mountain stream like Glade Run, flowing for much of its course through state game lands open to public fishing, could not support trout due to pollution from past mining,” said CRTU vice-president Dennis Croft. “Our efforts over more than two decades have not only brought the stream back to where it can support wild trout, but have benefitted Dunbar Creek and the Youghiogheny River downstream. We appreciate the support of BHE GT&S, which has helped us to document the progress we’ve made.”
“Financial support for this [water sampling] project is provided by BHE GT&S which is dedicated to the economic, physical, and social health of the communities served by BHE GT&S companies,” said a BHE GT&S spokesperson.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy administers the BHE GT&S Watershed grant program in commitment to its core mission of conserving Pennsylvania’s diverse ecosystems through science-based strategy, leadership, and collaboration.
CRTU’s Croft acknowledged the cooperation and support of other partners in the effort to restore Glade Run including Pennsylvania Game Commission, Wharton Township Supervisors, Mountain Watershed Association, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, California University of Pennsylvania, and the hundreds of area residents who attended Trout Unlimited’s popular fund-raising banquets over the years.
“Anyone who ever bought a ticket to our banquets also helped in these achievements,” Croft said.
John Dolan, of Connellsville, and secretary of the Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, collects water samples from a tributary to Glade Run in a remote section of Dunbar Township, Fayette County. The lab-analyzed samples document continued improvement in water quality in Glade Run and in Dunbar Creek downstream.
Ben Moyer provided photo
December 9, 2022 - Paul Gulya, Director CRTU, accepted the Laurel Highlands Tourism Grant for operational expenses awarded to purchase trout fish food to be utilized to feed the 8,000 trout at the cage-culture trout nursery. This is the third year that CRTU has submitted/received this grant. The grant only covers a portion of the cost of the fish food. In coordination with the Pa Fish and Boat Commission, CRTU raise/stock the trout. The stocking schedule starts in April thru July. We also engage with the local high school students to join in the stockings. In 2022, we also engaged the local fishing guides from Ohiopyle to float stock the Youghiogheny River.
During May 2022, Chestnut Ridge TU members assisted staff from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Watershed Office in surveying sections of Jonathan Run, within State Game Lands 51 and Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County. The surveys are the first step in a new cooperative Instream Alkaline Sand Treatment Project proposed for Jonathan Run. Members found low pH values, low alkalinity, and low diversity of macroinvertebrates upstream of the proposed limestone sand dosing site. Another sampled site farther downstream showed an improved diversity and number of macroinvertebrates, plus about 60 dace and creek chub minnows. The surveys found no trout. The Jonathan Run Instream Alkaline Sand Treatment project will be located just downstream of Jonathan Run’s crossing under SR 1055, the Dunbar-Ohiopyle Road. It is a cooperative project that will duplicate a long-running successful treatment project by the chapter on nearby Glade Run, tributary to Dunbar Creek and the Youghiogheny River. The project is consistent with recommendations of the Middle Youghiogheny River Conservation Plan, which advised addressing the regional problem of acid mine drainage pollution by treating polluted sub-watersheds within the larger Youghiogheny River Basin. The project involves rejuvenation of approximately 400 feet of an existing abandoned logging road through State Game Land 51 and Ohiopyle State Park for stream access, then placement of calculated volumes of high-carbonate alkaline sand on a prepared pad along the streambank. Jonathan Run will receive the placed sand, which will improve the pH and alkalinity of a portion of Jonathan Run impaired by surface coal mining in the 1980s. The goal is to restore a wild brook trout population to a stream that formerly supported this species and was classified by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection as “Exceptional Value.” Success will provide a high-quality trout angling experience on wild and remote public lands. Partners in the project include Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and Mountain Watershed Association. The instream treatment project will complement a new passive acid mine drainage treatment project the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy plans to complete on the Jonathan Run headwaters within the coming year.
Trinity Trout in the Classroom Release Days - May 12 & 13, 2022 at Mingo State Park This program was made possible between the Pa Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Pa Fish and Boat Commission, and the Pa Department of Education. Today’s Release event was held with Trinity Area School District and Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited. Barry Breth, John Gulya and Dennis Croft had Trinity 5th graders using Groove practice caster rods and then real fly rods for a 35-minute session. There were 5 classes from Trinity North and West on Thursday, May 12th and 4 classes on Friday, May 13th. Our team separated the students into 2 groups to show how to cast flies. We thanked them for participating in the Trout In the Classroom program and learning about the need for clean water for fish and humans. The release day had the students cycle through Geocaching, Micro invertebrate study, Electrofishing Mingo Creek, Leaf Critter study, Fly Casting, and Fly Tying. The students enjoyed their day and we heard from the teachers they really enjoyed learning how to cast a fly rod. We had several students say they were going to ask for a fly rod as a present for their birthday or Christmas. In 2022, Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited communicates with over 20 schools in the Western Pa Trout in the Classroom program (TIC). Dating back to 2006, each TIC program is unique and has applications in environment and ecology, science, mathematics, social studies, language and fine arts, and physical education, while students explore myriad topics like trout life cycles, aquatic adaptations, water resource conservation, and watersheds. All classrooms end the year by releasing their trout into a “Stocked Trout Waterway,” a state-approved stream near the school or within a nearby watershed. To learn more about Pa Trout in the classroom click here.
CRTU members and Friends of Jim Tobal (long-time CRTU member) gathered to stock trout at South Union Township's Community Park for a youth fishing experience slated to begin April 9 and continue as long as the stream at the kids' fishing area remains cool enough. The event is a commemoration of Jim Tobal and continues a youth fishing tradition he began at the park. The trout came from CRTU's PA Fish and Boat Commission Cooperative nursery in the tailrace of the Youghiogheny Reservoir.
Pictured at the stocking are, from left, Carol Gulya, CRTU; Mike Tobal, Friends of Jim Tobal; Paul Gulya, CRTU; Jim Johns, CRTU; Gary Brain, Friends of Jim Tobal; and Glenn Wass, CRTU.
photo by Ben Moyer
Annual youth fishing event commemorates Jim Tobal, educator and outdoorsman
By Ben Moyer
Friends of Jim Tobal are again offering a youth fishing experience as a memorial tribute to the long-time area educator, outdoorsman, and conservationist.
Tobal taught American History for over 40 years in the Laurel Highlands District, and later served as a director on the school board. He was active in community, conservation, and youth outdoor recreation causes throughout his life.
The fishing opportunity for all kids 12 years old and under will span several weeks, beginning on Saturday, April 9 in that portion of Hutchinson Run (tributary to Redstone Creek) flowing through the South Union Township Community Park, Hutchinson Recreation Area near Hopwood. The group asks that children be accompanied by an adult.
Mike Tobal, Jim’s brother, and Gary Brain, former Laurel Highlands School District superintendent, are the event’s primary organizers.
There is no cost for kids to participate, and no advance registration is required.
Some limited tackle will be available for kids without equipment, but adults are asked to equip young participants if possible.
No prizes are offered at the event. “This is not about competition,” Gary Brain said. “This is about the simple pleasure of being outdoors and fishing, the way Jim Tobal enjoyed it and tried to share it with young people all his life.”
The Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, of which Tobal was a long-time member, will stock the stream with trout for the event. The group operates a Fish and Boat Commission cooperative trout nursery in the tailrace of the Youghiogheny Reservoir at Confluence. Trout raised support youth fishing experiences across the region.
“Jim put this event together initially and ran it for years because he loved to see kids enjoy the outdoors,” Brain said. “His wife Patty and brother Mike continue to be wonderful supporters of what Jim valued.”
The Friends group plans another trout stocking for kids in the same stream prior to the National Pike Festival in mid-May.
Brain asks that fishing in that section of stream be limited to kids-only through the end of May. He reminds that the park is provided for public enjoyment by South Union Township, and that no litter or debris should be left behind.
“We thank South Union Township for their support of this project,” Brain said. “They care for the stream, and they have made it such an ideal place for a kids’ event like this.”
“Jim Tobal did so much for this community. We want to pay respect to him and are proud to be a part of this,” said South Union Township supervisor, Jason Scott.
August 27, 2021
Environmental Quality Board
P.O. Box 8477
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477
Dear Environmental Quality Board,
We are writing to express our enthusiastic support of the proposed redesignation of 47.5 stream-miles in the Dunbar Creek basin, including Dunbar Creek main stem and tributaries Limestone Run, Irishtown Run, and those parts of Glade Run within State Game Lands 51, Fayette County, as Exceptional Value (EV).
The Dunbar Creek basin’s improving water quality, wild character, scenic appeal, and the fact that two-thirds of the basin is protected within State Game Land 51, make the basin an irreplaceable environmental, recreational, and economic asset to Fayette County and southwestern Pennsylvania.
Our organization has worked to improve the water chemistry, trout habitat, and the aesthetic appeal of the Dunbar Creek basin since 1998. Since that date we have invested nearly a half-million dollars and an immense contribution of volunteer time and effort of our members to construct an anoxic limestone treatment system to moderate acid mine drainage degradation of Glade Run tributary, we have carried on a regular program of alkaline limestone sand treatment of Glade Run and two of its tributaries to boost alkalinity in the basin, we have helped remove obstructions to aquatic organism passage, and we annually clean up litter along Dunbar Creek main stem.
In addition, we work cooperatively with our partners Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Mountain Watershed Association to seek further improvements in the basin through regular water sampling and advocating future projects to remediate acid mine drainage degradation. Consequently, we feel compelled and justified in offering comment on the proposed redesignation.
Few places, perhaps none, in western Pennsylvania or bordering states offer the kind of experiences available to trout anglers within the Dunbar Creek basin. There, it is possible to fish miles of mountain stream in a wild setting, in pursuit of native, wild brook trout. These fish are a natural element of the place, not a far-off hatchery. Their presence throughout nearly the entire basin testifies to the watershed’s unique recreational, biological, and economic value.
We know of anglers who travel from long distances for the experience of fishing for Dunbar Creek basin’s wild native trout. Their visits contribute to the vitality of an otherwise challenged local economy, and their reports back home elevate the image of the Dunbar community and Fayette County.
In summary, we support and recommend redesignation of 47.5 stream-miles in the Dunbar Creek basin, Fayette County, as proposed, as Exceptional Value (EV) waters.
Thank you for considering our thoughts.
Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited