The Friends of Salt Springs Park will maintain the unspoiled, rural character of the park created by the Wheaton family. The Friends will provide opportunities to enjoy healthy outdoor recreation and education, while conserving the natural, scenic, aesthetic, and historical values of the park.
We are the Friends of Salt Springs Park. We manage 842 acres of Pennsylvania paradise.
The Bureau of State Parks created Salt Springs State Park on a farmstead it purchased in 1973. However, the BSP was unable to stretch its limited funds to maintain or improve its newest, and one of its most rural, properties. With no security personnel, the park soon became unsafe, and without maintenance, the historic buildings deteriorated. When a local fire company expressed interest in burning down the buildings, the community, long unhappy at the delapidated state of the entire park, became even more alarmed at the loss of this local landmark.
A group of citizens, in partnership with the Susquehanna County Commissioners, approached the BSP one more time. We did not ask again for them to put money into Salt Springs. Rather, we asked for permission to raise the money and manage the park ourselves. After months of negotiations, we got a "yes." We formed the Friends of Salt Springs Park, Inc., in 1994 and will celebrate our 20th anniversary next year.
We are a 501(c)(3) Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation. We have bylaws, a Board of Directors, and a structure of committees (see Friends Organizational Structure).
We are a volunteer organization with five part-time employees. We have approximately 400 members. Membership fees, which range from $25 for individual to $45 for families and upward for organizations, are a crucial source of income for us, as we get no direct support from the state. Click here for more information on membership.
Contracting with the Friends is the only time Pennsylvania has given responsibility for a state park to a volunteer organization. Since 1994, we have been the driving force behind improving the park facilities, restoring its buildings, enlarging its hiking trails, building the campgrounds and cottages, and providing year-round programs. We have funded these projects through grants, donations, and membership, camping, and program fees.
The park offers a gorge with three magnificent waterfalls surrounded by a virgin hemlock forest and trails winding through 842 acres. At the base of the gorge is a bubbling salt spring, traces of an 1850s woolen mill, and mid-19th century farmhouses and barns. The Friends sponsor special events and recreational and educational programs all year based on the park's rich natural and human history.
With one exception, the park is open to hunting and fishing in season. The picnic area and the land surrounding the hemlock grove, waterfalls, and farmhouses is a designated Natural Area, which is off limits to hunting. In winter, portions of the park are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Before Salt Springs was a state park, it was the Wheaton family homestead. From the late 1830s until 1970, six generations of Wheatons farmed the land, raised their families, and welcomed friends and strangers alike to picnic, hike, and camp in their woods and fields. To perpetuate the public's access, the Wheatons approached the Bureau of State Parks to purchase their farm and turn it into a state park. (See Local History for more on the Wheatons and Salt Springs, beginning in 1795.)
The BSP was interested in Salt Springs because of its rare geological aspects, old-growth hemlock trees, and deep gorge with waterfalls. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired Salt Springs in 1973 with money raised through Pennsylvania's Project 70. With The Nature Conservancy acting as financial intermediary from 1971 to 1973, ownership passed from the James Wheaton family to the BSP. The 405-acre homestead became Salt Springs State Park.
The Friends have more than doubled the size of land open to the public. The park now includes an additional 437 acres owned exclusively by the Friends. In 2000, we purchased a 300-acre tract adjacent to the park. This tract is called the Friends Land. To ensure preservation of the Friends Land in perpetuity, we placed it in a Conservation Easement that is held by the Edward L. Rose Conservancy. In 2006, we increased the Friends Land by purchasing another adjacent 137-acre tract. Both purchases were made possible by grants from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with matching funds donated by the public. The Friends Land is easily reached by park roads and trails. It offers expanded recreational opportunities and further protection to the Fall Brook watershed and its diverse habitats.