Trout Run Woods Management Plan

Management Plans Trout Run Woods Preserve

Special Note: White Nose Syndrome-Trout Run Woods Caves were closed in an attempt to prevent White Nose Syndrome from being spread by caver contact. During that closure period, the fungus was spread from bat to bat contact and the caves in the region have been contaminated. Everyone visiting this preserve must follow strict decontamination procedures and notify the preserve manager in advance to ensure that the caves are open.

 Contact the preserve manager at TroutRunWoodsCaves@karst.org with any questions.

INTRODUCTION

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC), is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania in 1997. The MAKC owns two preserves in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and leases three others in Pennsylvania. The Trout Run Woods Partnership, L.P. (TRWPLP) in the spring of 2003 finalized the purchase of lands in Westmoreland County, comprising approximately 4,000 acres and 30 caves. The land was the focus of a multi-year battle to prevent a limestone quarry in the Blairsville Borough watershed and to protect karst aquifers, cave inhabitants and many other aspects of this land and its unique and fragile resources. The owners of the TRLP and the MAKC have a common goal to preserve and protect this unique resource and wish to partner in the management of this property as it relates to the caves, cave and karst resources, the limestone and sandstone outcroppings which contain the caves, and cave inhabitants such as the eastern woodrat, bats, salamanders and invertebrates.

HISTORY

The TRWPLP property was closed in 1991 when the previous owners leased the site to Tasman Resources, a limestone mining company. The Blairsville watershed area was a controversial part of a limestone mining permit application issued in December of 1995 to Tasman. The initial permit application had included the area containing one of the major caves in the area. A four-year effort by members of the Loyalhanna Grotto succeeded in getting the cave removed from the mining permit area, and in obtaining additional protections for the watershed. The quarry proposal’s demise was brought about by lack of a good access road to the property, and its ultimate demise by the purchase of the property by TRWPLP.

CAVE SCIENCE

Each cave’s distinct geology, biology, archaeology, paleontology, hydrology and mineralogy has been fully detailed in Caves of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Mid-Appalachian Region Bulletin 20, edited by Kim Opatka-Metzgar and published in 1996. Thus, this management plan will include a broad set of objectives regarding the caves and their management, then distinct individual comments regarding each cave and its management in a synopsis at the end. The section which discusses each individual cave WILL NOT be published on the world wide web.

RESEARCH

The MAKC encourages research to explore the preserve’s historical, biological, geological, mineralogical, hydrological, paleontological and archaeological potential. Researchers who desire access to the preserve should submit a brief, written synopsis of their project to the MAKC board for consideration. Researchers are required to submit a preliminary report documenting initial findings, data, and project progress no later than 30 days after access to preserve. A final report is required within one year of completion of project. A schedule of reports for longer-term projects can be established if necessary. The owners reserve the right to comment upon published papers which might reveal sensitive information, and specifically prohibit publishing reports on the internet without their approval. Any research project which involves removal of cave soils, digging, mineralogical or biological sampling must first receive the approval of the preserve owners and their property management team.

PRESERVE MANAGEMENT TEAM

The MAKC board will designate a preserve management team to oversee the property. The size of this team shall be determined by the board and one team member shall be named as the preserve manager. The preserve manager shall report directly to the MAKC board of directors on all issues concerning the Trout Run Woods Cave Preserve. The intial preserve management team will include Tom and Kim Metzgar.

NEWS/PUBLICATION POLICY

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy, Inc., seeks to publicize caves only as befits our mission as stated in our bylaws and constitution: for education of the public about caves and karst resources; for published scientific studies in cave-related publications, and, depending on the sensitivity of the material, on the world wide web.
Specific cave location information WILL NOT be released to the general public; i.e., cave names, directions to the caves or maps of the caves. The MAKC will seek to minimize publicity of cave locations.

The MAKC can use the cave names in publicizing acquisitions and in its newsletter and other caving publications, such as the NSS News and local grotto newsletters. The management plan will be available for publication in these mediums. However, as part of the access agreement reached with MAKC and TRWLP, specific cave name information, photographs, and calendars with trips to these caves or other information WILL NOT be made available on the world wide web, listserves, or on websites. Any individual caver or caving or other organization which publishes information or photographs on these caves on the world wide web WILL LOSE ACCESS to the preserve and face prosecution for trespass. Caving organizations publishing electronic forms of their newsletters should remove reference to these caves in the electronic format/archive and only publish trip reports to these caves in print, where they are not widely available to members of the general public. Specific requests for publicity concerning the caves/cave preserve that are not covered under this policy should be approved by the MAKC Board of Directors.

PENNSYLVANIA CAVE PROTECTION ACT

Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act (1990), No 1990 -133, SB 867, Signed into law Nov. 21, 1990, prohibits removal of any type of material or species and organisms from a cave: remove, deface, tamper with or otherwise disturb any natural or cultural resources or material found within any cave; kill, injure, disturb or otherwise interfere with any cave life, including any cave roosting bat, or interfere with or obstruct the free movement of any cave life into or out of any cave, or enter any cave with the intention of killing, injuring, disturbing or interfering with life forms therein, except where public health may be threatened and willfully or knowingly break, break off, crack, carve upon, write, bum, mark upon, remove or in any manner destroy, disturb, mar or harm surfaces of any cave or any natural material which may be found therein, whether attached or broken, including speleothems, speleogens and sedimentary deposits.

For the complete text of federal and state cave laws, refer to this link: https://karst.org/index.php?section=108.

SURFACE MANAGEMENT

The MAKC has a lease on the cave rights. The owners retain the surface rights and management, and may enter into agreements with other agencies, individuals and organizations, as pertains to other aspects of the preserve and its management. However, there are a number of rules for the property use which will apply to all cavers and potentially to other user groups:

1. No ATVs or dirt bikes.
2. No camping or campfires.
3. The property is open from dawn to dusk only between April 15 and October 15.
4. The MAKC has a lease agreement for cave rights. This includes ingress and egress to the caves; however, it does not include surface activities such as digging. Surface digsites must be approved by the owners, their property managers and the MAKC preserve management team in advance.
5. Human-produced trash and waste must be carried in and carried out and properly disposed of.
6. There will be no fixed ropes, bolts climbing aids or handlines installed in any of the caves.

The MAKC is in the process of working out one parking arrangement for all caves in the area. It is MAKC’s long-term plan to establish its own parking/changing area and educational facility in the area. All cave visitors must park and SIGN IN and be out of the parking area by dusk. The parking area is open from dawn to dusk only. Persons wishing to visit any of the caves in the area must provide advance notice to the MAKC preserve management team so that the owners of TRWLP and their caretakers/property managers know when groups will be on the property. Members of TWRLP will be using the property extensively for hunting activities. Thus, for safety issues, the property WILL BE CLOSED to caving during the Pennsylvania hunting season, which runs from October to mid-January. Additionally, since some of the caves of the property serve as hibernacula for several species of bats, the property WILL BE CLOSED through April 15. Thus, there WILL BE NO ACCESS for caving on the TRWLP property from the first Saturday in October through April 15. The MAKC management team may conduct property inspections and patrols during the closure period to ensure the closures are obeyed. Persons attempting to visit caves on the property during this closure WILL BE PROSECUTED for trespass.

INITIAL CAVE MANAGEMENT

The MAKC’s initial management will focus on these areas:

1. Continuing studies begun over a decade ago on these caves.
2. Evaluating each cave’s status and how each may be visited with minimal impact.
3. Conducting cleanup trips as necessary.
4. MAKC will conduct conservation-related trips to the caves, and property, as opposed to purely recreational trips.
5. The MAKC will provide an annual report on visitation to the owners and keep in contact regarding scheduled trips. Any revisions to the management plan should be proposed at this time.

ACCESS

Advance notice MUST BE GIVEN to the MAKC preserve management team of a group’s desire to visit the area. A parking lot register will be in place, where visitors can sign in and indicate where they are going on the property, as well as time of arrival, departure. Cave registers are in place in some of the larger caves. Visitors will be encouraged to sign the register books. MAKC will, on request, and with enough advance notice, arrange trips for any group. All persons entering the caves must be have a minimum of a hardhat, lug-soled boots, gloves, three sources of light and warm, layered clothing. Any group or person charging a fee to visit any cave on the preserve is prohibited. Group size is limited to 12 or fewer cavers. No mass-type caving activities will be permitted.

For access requests e-mail the MAKC at troutrunwoodscaves@karst.org or contact us at 137 East Campbell St., Blairsville, Pa., 15717. E-mail is obviously the timeliest way to contact the access coordinator. Please allow more time for mail requests.

LIABILITY DISCLAIMER

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy, its board of directors, the Trout Run Woods Preserve management team, the cave’s owners, the National Speleological Society or its local chapters (grottos) or any individual members thereof will not be liable for any damages, accidents, injuries, or death on the surface or subsurface of the property. All the above named organizations will also not be liable for any damage or loss of personal property while visiting the preserve.

NON-DISCRMINATION POLICY

The MAKC promotes a policy of non-discrimination for everyone. That policy, adopted by the MAKC Board on February 16, 2019, is as follows:
The MAKC does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, granting membership, selection of project volunteers and serving on internal committees. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all board of directors, officers, agents, members, volunteers, and contributors.

ANTI-HARRASSMENT POLICY

The MAKC follows the National Speleological Society’s anti-harassment policy. That policy is as follows:

The National Speleological Society and the MAKC are dedicated to providing a safe and harassment-free (experience) environment for our members and attendees at our events, on social media and within our organization. We will not tolerate harassment in any form. Any attendee that violates this policy will be (told) asked to leave the event and may be subject to further disciplinary action at the discretion of the MAKC Board.
Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate comments, inappropriate sexual behavior that warrants intervention, unwanted advances and touching, invasion of personal space in a sexual manner, deliberate intimidation, and unwelcomed sexual advances. In addition, harassment includes unwanted verbal, physical, cyber, or social aggressive behavior. The action of our members and guests will be closely monitored and if an incident of harassment is reported the event staff, volunteers, or MAKC representatives will (may) take corrective action against any offenders at the time of the incident, ranging from verbal warnings to expulsion from the area and/or event and a referral of the offender to the MAKC Board for consideration of expulsion from the MAKC.

If you are being harassed or witness another person being harassed, please contact a security staff member immediately. We will be happy to assist you and provide protection for our members and attendees. We value all of our members and attendees that come to caving events and want to ensure that your safety and well-being is a top priority.

FUTURE UPDATES

This management plan was approved by the MAKC board on February 14, 2004. The MAKC board reserves the right to update, adjust, alter or amend this plan at any time without notice, with consent and approval of the owners and their property managers and consultants. Changes in the management plan must be sanctioned by the board of directors and the owners and thereafter will be publicized in the MAKC newsletter and/or website at the board’s discretion.

SPECIFIC CAVE MANAGEMENT FOCUS POINTS ARE FOR PRINT PUBLICATION ONLY