McKeever Environmental Learning Center to Get a New Lease on Life

Public Invited to Informational Meeting April 28

HARRISBURG (April 19, 2022) The educational offerings of the popular McKeever Environmental Learning Center, closed in 2017, will get a new lease on life when the property is transferred to the Bureau of Forestry in the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and become part of Clear Creek State Forest, Sen. Michele Brooks announced today in conjunction with DCNR.

The property’s official new name will be McKeever Center/Clear Creek State Forest.

DCNR, the Bureau of Forestry and Sen. Brooks are inviting the community to a public meeting, where they will have the opportunity to give their input, as well as discuss and review ideas for the reopening of McKeever. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 at the Emmanuel Christian Church, 4495 Greenville Sandy Lake Road, Stoneboro. 

Through this partnership, McKeever, spanning more than 190 wooded acres, will carry on the vision of its founders.  It will once again be the site of educational workshops and programs for schoolchildren, forest landowners and the general public, Brooks said. Once again, the McKeever trails system will be open to local residents and tourists, and its auditorium will again be available for organizations to use.

The environmental learning center was established in the early 1970’s through the vision and foresight of local property and business owners —-including Dr. William DeCoudres, Richard Freni, Harold McQuiston, and Turner Craig –. and was ultimately named after state soil conservationist Ivan McKeever. The vision of these founders will grow as McKeever offers new programs and opportunities, including working with local first responders on wildland firefighting and search and rescue, as well as offering trails that are accessible to those with disabilities.

“Understanding the importance McKeever holds to local families and tourists, I deeply appreciate the unique partnership we’ve been able to forge with DCNR and the Bureau of Forestry,” Brooks said.  “I am grateful for the collective effort that made this reopening possible, through the strong support of DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, the Bureau of Forestry, former McKeever Director Fran Bires, and other local leaders. It’s always been a priority for me to reopen this property to the public and school groups, so it can once again be enjoyed and become a part of family traditions and memories.”

Part of the vision for this property is to make it sustainable through public-private partnerships. as well as the possibility of enhancing opportunities between Goddard State Park and McKeever.

Penn- Northwest Development Corporation Executive Director Rod Wilt and Penn-Northwest have also been integral partners in the center’s revitalization.

“Penn-Northwest is excited about the announcement that DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry will be the new operators of the McKeever Environmental Learning Center.  This facility has been a Mercer County treasure that has played a key role in environmental education for nearly 40 years.  It is nearly impossible to calculate the number of people of all ages who have participated in any number of programs at McKeever.  We look forward to seeing the new plans for the facility unfold.  We especially want to thank Sen. Michele Brooks for her leadership over the past four years to bring DCNR to McKeever.”

John Oliver, a key stakeholder in the McKeever opening, and the former Secretary of DCNR, said, “For many years, McKeever Center near Sandy Lake was a thriving regional environmental education facility serving school districts throughout western Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it ceased operations over four years ago and has fallen into disrepair. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Sen. Michele Brooks, it now has a new home in DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, Clear Creek District. I’m thrilled with this exciting news and see tremendous opportunities for public/private partnership events centered around forest management, fire training and natural history education as well as cooperative outdoor recreation ventures with neighboring Goddard State Park.”  

Mercer County Commissioner Scott Boyd added, “I am very excited to see the McKeever Center saved for public use here in my own community!  The revival of interest in outdoor activities, its proximity to Lake Wilhelm and easy access to I-79 will attract visitors from outside the area and add to our local economy. I’m pleased to be part of the Work Group looking at new opportunities that will develop from our discussions.” 

The site will also feature office space for the Bureau of Forestry, serving as its western satellite office.    

The working group said they look forward to having public input on April 28th as they join with the community in embarking upon reopening this landmark and writing this exciting new chapter for McKeever.   


CONTACT:   Diane McNaughton        (717) 787-1322        

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