Fair Gives Locals an Up-Close Look at Sustainability

| August 23, 2018

SIGEL, Pa. (EYT) – Sustainable technology and related policies advancing in Pennsylvania were the primary focuses of a DCNR Sustainability Fair held Wednesday at Clear Creek State Park.

DCNR representatives Suzann Rensel and Sylvia Rensel were on hand to explain the variety of topics covered at the fair.

According to Suzann, the idea began to take root during an annual training event, when the DCNR leadership announced the new initiatives for the year.

“Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for stuff like this my entire life,” she said.

“It was very exciting because the DCNR was getting a chance to get a fleet with some electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles in it. But every time you talk to people, they say, ‘Oh, but I hear the batteries don’t last’ or ‘Is it really cost-effective?’ so I said we need to get people in touch with the technology because until they try it themselves they’re not going to start to embrace it.”

Suzann also noted that her daughter, Sylvia, a DCNR intern at Parker Dam, had some influence on the event.

“She’s a sustainability major. She wanted to do all of the things on the intern list, but also wanted to do something in her major,” she explained.

The two decided to pool their resources and hold back-to-back Sustainability Fairs, one at Clear Creek State Park, and the other at Parker Dam.

“When you come together like this, you realize there’s power in just talking to each other,” Suzann said.

Wednesday’s fair spanned across the park grounds and featured a variety of organizations that presented information and demonstrations related to sustainability.

Adjacent to the parking area, the St. Francis Institute for Energy Mobile Power Lab was hard to miss.

The power lab’s features included solar panels with battery storage, a biomass pellet stove, a small wind turbine blade and turbine display, energy efficient electronics, and other sustainable building applications.

There was also information offered about renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits, funding opportunities, and financing, as well as literature detailing the Rural Energy for America Program.

The Jefferson County Conservation District provided demonstrations and activities related to groundwater pollution.

“We insert certain dyes to represent oil or different kinds of pollution, and how it can affect the groundwater based on where certain wells are located or even septic systems. I think it’s an awesome example of groundwater and how it works because a lot of people don’t understand how it works,” said Jefferson County Conservation District representative Dana Grabowski.

“It’s a hard concept to understand when you can’t see it. Here you can actually show people what’s going on,” said Jefferson County Conservation District representative Dana Grabowski.

Nearby, there was also a display and explanation of the PA Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Program, which provides funding for the elimination of stream pollution caused by runoff from unpaved and low volume public roads.

Additionally, representatives from Penn State Extension were on hand to educate fairgoers about food safety and preservation.

“We’re doing a canning class in September, and we also do ‘Dining for Diabetes,’ and ‘Cooking for Crowds,’ which is food safety for fire departments, churches, just people that do things with food, and don’t have to have a ServeSafe Certificate, but need to know safe food handling,” explained Pam Passmore, of Penn State Extension Jefferson County Office.

Other exhibits and activities provided by the Jefferson County Penn State Extension Office helped inform attendees on the Master Gardeners, and a butterfly display and release with live Monarch butterflies.

Clair and Rusty Orner of Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living presented materials for people interested in worm composting, as well as some other items relating to the safe gathering of locally available edibles.

Joshua and Penny Orner of Orner’s Dairy Farm were in attendance to educate those in attendance on sustainable dairy farming.

“We’re talking about the dairy business, the milk, pasteurization, how we manage the fields, and we let the kids milk the ‘cow’, of course,” Joshua Orner said, noting how popular the hands-on cow milking activity seemed to be among the children in attendance.

A separate area of the fair focused primarily on energy efficiency. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings operated by the DCNR, including Clear Creek State Forest Resource Management Center, were highlighted, with explanations of some of the ways the buildings have improved efficiency in terms of energy, water usage, stewardship of resources, and other impacts.

The energy efficiency area also offered first-hand looks at a solar generator, an electric motorcycle, and a hybrid vehicle, as well as other examples of solar technology.

DCNR representative Eric Rensel highlighted solar energy technology, offering demonstrations of different solar technology ranging from a solar cell phone charger to one of the first completely off-grid vehicles owned and operated by the Bureau of State Parks, a battery-assisted pedal vehicle, which is also charged by a moderate solar panel array.

“Back in 2000, I think, the State Parks bought four of these, so we had them for moving around the parks,” Rensel said.

“Our friend’s group donated the solar panels to charge it,” he noted.

Rensel demonstrated the capability and quiet running of the small vehicle, making a quick loop near the display area.

The event was attended by a number of locals and visitors to the area, as well as a busload of youngsters from the Brookville YMCA.

“I think it was a good trial base this year,” Suzann Rensel said. “All of our partners said ‘this is great, now I know what to expect for next year.'”

Rensel said she anticipates that another DCNR Sustainability Fair will be held next summer.

More information on Clear Creek State Park and the DCNR’s sustainability efforts can be found DCNR.PA.GOV.


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