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Dauphin County unveils plans for 411-acre Middle Paxton parkDetweiler Park will be named for prominent midstate business owners

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Detweiler Park, set to open this spring in Middle Paxton Township, will be the largest of Dauphin County's eight parks.
Detweiler Park, set to open this spring in Middle Paxton Township, will be the largest of Dauphin County's eight parks. - (Photo / )

A new park opening this spring in Middle Paxton Township will be Dauphin County's largest, thanks in part to the generosity of a family well known in midstate business circles.

Detweiler Park, named for the former owners of Stackpole Books and the Harrisburg Telegraph, will cover 411 acres off Peters Mountain Road along Clarks Creek.

Members of the Detweiler family, who owned the land for four generations, donated $897,500 of the land’s $2.4 million purchase price to the county. The sale was completed on Dec. 30.

"My family has lived there for almost a century and it's a beautiful piece of land that my grandfather and great-grandfather wanted to preserve," said John Elder Stackpole Detweiler, Susan Detweiler's son.

"They were big believers in the State of Pennsylvania and they would be very happy to know this land is going to the people of Dauphin County," he added.

The remaining money came from an $887,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $607,500 in gaming grant money from Hollywood Casino.

Family representatives were on hand at the Dauphin County Administration Building on Wednesday morning as officials unveiled plans for the park, which will include more than 9 miles of trails.

County officials also announced plans to gather input for a master plan to develop the park.

"This board wants to thank the Detweiler family for providing the county with this wonderful property that is a true outdoor treasure, featuring fields, forests and fishing," board chairman Jeff Haste said. "As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I'm excited at the recreational opportunities Detweiler Park will provide our residents now and in the future."

Family history

The original home on the property, not part of the park, was purchased eight decades ago by Gen. Edward J. Stackpole Jr. He was president of the Telegraph Press and a co-founder with his brother Albert of Stackpole Sons, which later became Stackpole Books.

Susan Detweiler and her son, John, gather with the Dauphin County commissioners during a ceremony unveiling the creation of Detweiler Park. From left, commissioners Mike Pries and George Hartwick, Susan Detweiler, John Detweiler, and Commissioner Jeff Haste.
Susan Detweiler and her son, John, gather with the Dauphin County commissioners during a ceremony unveiling the creation of Detweiler Park. From left, commissioners Mike Pries and George Hartwick, Susan Detweiler, John Detweiler, and Commissioner Jeff Haste. - ()

"The General," as friends and family called Stackpole, planted all the pines behind the main house and along the trails. In the 1950s, he also provided a home for the Dauphin County Anglers and Conservationists on family property along Clarks Creek.

In 1943, his daughter, Mary Frances Stackpole, married Meade D. Detweiler III and they built a home on land adjacent to the main house. Detweiler was an avid conservationist, and over the years the couple made many improvements to the property. The family also donated land for the Dauphin County Conservation District’s offices.

Detweiler also continued the family's tradition of media ownership through WHP radio and television, Commonwealth Communications and Stackpole Books.

According to county officials, a 1993 letter set out his vision for the future of the land: "The property should be an area where habitats are preserved and managed in perpetuity for wildlife based on sound ecological principles that demonstrate a strong land ethic."

Meade Detweiler's heirs — Susan Detweiler, wife of the late M. David Detweiler IV, Frances Detweiler Granatino, and Esme Detweiler Freedman — realized that vision through the sale and donation.

M. David Detweiler IV, the fourth generation of his family to lead Stackpole Books, died in 2014 at the age of 67. The Lower Allen Township-based publisher of outdoors, sports, history and regional books was sold to Maryland-based publisher Rowman & Littlefield in 2015.

Future plans

This summer, temporary parking and an entrance to the park's trails will be available from the conservation district's headquarters on Peters Mountain Road.

Public meetings will be held later this year's to seek input for master plan on what features should be developed, including a new parking area, sports fields and possibly converting the farmhouse to a nature center.

Commissioner Mike Pries praised Detweiler family members for their generosity.

"You could have made millions off that property," if it had been sold to private developers, Pries said. "You didn't, and you made your father and grandfather proud today."

Commissioner George P. Hartwick III said he had already visited the property with his family, and praised its beauty.

"It is probably one of the nicest sites I've been involved with, at any location," he said. "This is a great day in Dauphin County, and it's something we should always cherish and remember."

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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