Janine Dymond and others who regularly bike at Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township have watched in horror as sections of their popular trail have been gobbled up by a timbering operation in recent weeks.
“It’s disheartening. It makes me very sad to look at it because of the devastation,” said Dymond, of Exeter Township.
Luzerne County Council members demanded answers when Dymond reported the timbering because they were unaware of it and had stressed the county would continue controlling any timbering at Moon Lake for 25 years when ownership of the Plymouth Township park was transferred to the state in October.
Nicholas Lylo, a state district forester, cleared up the matter in an email to the council.
The timbering site is on watershed land prior county commissioners had purchased from Theta Land Corp. in 2005, and that purchase allowed Theta to keep the timber rights until 2028, Lylo said.
Theta’s timber claim had to remain with the property when the county transferred ownership to the state, Lylo said.
“Timber harvesting would have occurred if the property was still owned by Luzerne County,” Lylo said.
The county’s property transfer covered the 650-acre Moon Lake, the Seven Tubs Nature Area in Plains Township and the 400-acre former Theta parcel adjacent to Moon Lake that now links two sections of state forest property.
Theta Land Corp. was linked to a company controlled by Dunmore businessman Louis DeNaples in 2008, according to court records. State corporation records currently list Robert McNichols as president and John F. Kell Jr. as vice president.
The county had paid more than $4 million to purchase Theta property in Plymouth Township, the Mountain Top area and in other municipalities with the goal of preserving wildlife, protecting drinking water and expanding public recreational opportunities.
The Theta land had previously belonged to Pennsylvania Enterprises Inc., one-time parent company of Pennsylvania Gas and Water, which merged with Texas-based Southern Union Co. in 1999.
Dymond questions why some county council members were in the dark about the timbering rights to the property.
“Someone is making money from this timbering, and the state and county are not getting this money. Why didn’t anybody mention this?” she asked.
Volunteers carved out and maintained the bike paths years ago, with the county’s blessing, to enhance activities at the park, said Dymond, who has been biking on the trail for 15 years.
About 20 percent of the trails have been wiped out, including some that “were the most vital for navigating the park,” Dymond said.
Hundreds of mountain bikers from all over Pennsylvania and occasionally other states visit Moon Lake annually for the trails, she said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.