Marking 30 Years of the Mount Nittany Conservancy

The ability to look back and reflect on where we’ve been should always temper the path forward. In 1945, the Lion’s Paw Alumni Association (LPAA) saved 525 acres from lumbering through a fund-raising campaign among its few hundred members. In 1981, LPAA formed the Mount Nittany Conservancy (MNC) to acquire additional land. With community and alumni support, the Conservancy has obtained through purchase or donation another additional 300 acres.

In 2011, the Mount Nittany Conservancy marked 30 years of keeping the Mountain green and growing.

Other groups might use the word ‘celebrate’ when they reach an anniversary year. The term ‘celebrate’ though gives the appearance that we’ve done our job, completed our task, and can move on. For the MNC board, our community volunteers, friends, and supporters of Mount Nittany, this will never be. Our mission will continue to be the preservation of Mount Nittany for future generations of Centre Countians, Penn Staters and other lovers of the outdoors. We know for example that the gypsy moth will be back to threaten the Mountain someday. We plan to be here when they do return.

Not-any Mountain

“It’s not really much of a Mountain. It measures only 2,077 feet above sea level, or 1,050 feet above the valley floor – hardly a Himalaya, by any standards. Irreverent visitors and tourists at one point dubbed it ‘Not-any Mountain’. But Mount Nittany looms regally over Penn State by making up in tradition and familiarity what it lacks in geological fact. And to every true Penn Stater, it’s as much a part of the University as the school song which mentions it.”

So begins an article from a 1982 publication called Faces of Penn State. The piece starts out exploring one of the legends surrounding the Indian maid Nitta-nee. The article then goes on to tell how “in the fall of 1945. William Ulerich, then editor at the Centre Daily Times (later to become president of the University’s Board of Trustees), and Russell Clark got wind of the rumor that the Mountain would be sold to a lumber company and stripped of its tress. With only hours left to save the Mountain, the men bought the upper two-thirds of Mt. Nittany in the name of Lion’s Paw.” The story of how Lion’s Paw protected Mt. Nittany from the first gypsy moth infestation in 1980, along with a $900 donation from the Delta Chi fraternity is included as well. This view from the early 1980’s is a wonderful look back at the early history of Mt. Nittany and its place in all our hearts.

Nita-nee: A Tradition of a Juniata Maiden

Of all his stories. by odds his favorite one. dealt with the Indian maiden. Nita-nee. for whom the fruitful Nittany Valley and the towering Nittany Mountain are named. This Indian girl was born on the banks of the lovely Juniata. not far from the present town of Newton Hamilton. the daughter of a powerful chief. It was in the early days of the world. when the physical aspect of Nature could be changed over night by a fiat from the Gitchie-Manitto or Great Spirit. It was therefore in the age of great and wonderful things. before a rigid world produced beings whose lives followed grooves as tight and permanent as the gullies and ridges.

During the early life of Nita-nee a great war was waged for the possession of the Juniata Valley. The aggressors were Indians from the South. who longed for the scope and fertility of this earthly Paradise. Though Nita-nee’s father and his brave cohorts defended their beloved land to the last extremity. they were driven northward into the Seven Mountains and beyond. Though they found themselves in beautiful valleys. filled with bubbling springs and teeming with game. they missed the Blue Juniata. and were never wholly content. The father of Nita-nee. who was named Chun-Eh-Hoe. felt so humiliated that he only went about after night in his new home. He took up his residence on a broad plain, not far from where State College now stands, and should be the Indian patron of that growing institution, instead of Chief Bald Eagle, who never lived near there and whose good deeds are far outweighed by his crimes.

The Legend of the Valley

Long, bright, ribbon of gold, blending, graying, into the deep blue of a twilight sky, set atop of a mountain line, rugged irregular ; the breath of a night wind, soft, uncertain, rustling faintly across the broad expanse of tree tops ; a thread of shining white in the valley just below her, all this Nittany saw and was thankful. Many were the moons and long, since her warrior went out to battle. Many were the flocks of wild geese that had flown northward and southward above her, and still, he had not returned. Manitou, Manitou the Mighty, was cruel, and yet-the south wind grew bolder and kissed her brown cheek, withered now and old ; the dying light in the west lingered on her face, kindled answering lights in her eyes,- another day was gone.

Mount Nittany with Thompson Pond

This very famous picture of Mount Nittany with Thompson Pond in the foreground from Photographer Robert Beese was taken in the 1940s. It shows “a panoramic view of Mount Nittany taken from spot where College Avenue now goes under University Drive.”


MNC Past Presidents

Isaac Newton remarked, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” The Conservancy would like to honor all its past Presidents for their vision and leadershiip on behalf of the MNC.

  • John Hook (2010-present)
  • Vince Verbeke (2008-10)
  • Ron Woodhead (2006-08)
  • Pat Farrell (2001-06) +
  • Ben Bronstein (1999-01)
  • Bill Jaffe (1996-99)
  • Ken Reeves (1994-96)
  • Rich Pirrotta (1990-94)
  • Ben Novak (1981-90)

Around the County with John Hook

John Hook, MNC President, was interviewed by the Centre County’s Government & Educational Access Network (C-NET) as part of their “Around the County” series.

In the opening segment, John discusses how Lion’s Paw first purchased its Mount Nittany land and how the Conservancy was started.

Adding Land in 1989

From The Daily Collegian Nov 6, 1989:

The Mount Nittany Conservancy — a local non-profit group — says it will purchase 61 additional acres of Centre County’s famous landmark to protect the land from any future development.

The conservancy, which made its last purchase of 209 acres in 1985, announced Friday its plan to raise $61,000 in donations to buy the land on the south side of Mount Nittany.

Falling Short

From Jan 1985, we know that the story has a happy ending:

The Mount Nittany Conservancy is $20,000 short of the $120,000 needed to purchase 209 acres on the mountain, the Conservancy director said.

Ben Novak said yesterday at a press conference held in Old Main that the Conservancy recently received a $40,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in Pittsburgh to help complete the purchase. The foundation occasionally contributes to conservation projects which help preserve land in its natural state, he added.

Novak said individual contributions exceeding $60,000 have been made by University alumni, local residents, businesses, and members of the University community. The Lion’s Paw Alumni contributed $33,000 of that amount, Novak said.

Mount Nittany Through the Years

Penn Pilot, a project sponsored by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, is an online library of digital historical aerial photography for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Using the interactive map provided on this website, you can browse, view, and download thousands of photos covering the Commonwealth from 1937 to 1942 and 1967 to 1972.

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