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  • The misnaming of Ivyland, Pennsylvania

    There is no shortage of curious sounding town names in Pennsylvania. A person would only need to cross over the Lancaster County line to be surrounded by boroughs and villages, with names like Bird In Hand, Blue Ball, and Intercourse which makes one shake their head in disbelief.

    Yet, even among the more traditional sounding cities, its naming might not be as straightforward as one might think.

    Take Ivyland, PA for example.

    This quaint borough sports one of the finest collections of Victorian era buildings in the state, but very few of them are covered by ivy. So why name it Ivyland?

    The town was started in 1873 when Edwin Lacey, a Quaker farmer turned developer, who wanted to cash in on the thousands of people coming through the area to celebrate the Centennial Exposition of 1876 being held in nearby Philadelphia. Lacey sold his dream to investors who helped him lay out this twelve block village, complete with an addition to the North Penn Railroad, and a grand hotel in the center of it all.

    Lacey’s utopia was quickly becoming a reality -- so he needed to call this area something that captured the essence of his new home. Thomas MacKenzie, a personal acquaintance of Edwin, stated that Lacey “envisioned lovely ivy-covered walls throughout his town”, and since there was an abundance of this beautiful, glossy, three-leafed ivy, it made perfect sense to call it, “Ivyland”.

    Unfortunately, Edwin Lacey was no botanist, and mistook the glossy, three-leafed ivy for English ivy (which has a webbed maple leaf shape). Needless to say, the new settlers and town officials did not cover their buildings with this vine -- because it was POISON IVY!

    In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing Lacey didn’t call the place what it actually was, because, who would want to visit Poison Ivyland, Pennsylvania? No one.

     

  • There's nothing to do around here!


    Growing up in a small Midwestern town, it wasn’t uncommon to hear people say, “there’s nothing to do around here.” The complaint would then be followed closely by this declaration: “If there was only a new restaurant, a community center, a fishing club, a fill-in-the-blank -- whatever -- then we’d have something to do.”

    As in most arguments, there’s a little truth and a little error.

    The truth parts:

    new buildings, establishments, and programs can produce things to do
    new buildings, establishments, and programs can be exciting and interesting

    The error parts:

    it takes the responsibility off of the complainer and places it on someone or something else to make it happen
    it ignores an element of human nature (the part where we always want something more)

    So, what’s the cure to feeling like there’s nothing to do?

    1. Jedi mind tricks
    Seriously, most of life’s problems, including having nothing to do, is a matter of the mind. Look at the places and programs that are currently available, give yourself a pep talk, and then go have a ball.

    2. Constant curiosity
    Samuel Johnson said, “The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” This is so stinkin’ true! There’s a big world out there just ripe for picking. Go explore. Ask questions. Brave a new path!

    3. Act before others do
    Don’t spend your life waiting for others to invite you to do something. Take the initiative to go out and do whatever you want. If no one cares to join you, go do it anyway. People are always looking for others to follow, so start leading and you might be surprised about how many others are lined up behind you.

    4. Contentment capitalism
    Sometimes, it is just a matter of being content with what you have in the place where you are. (Being bored is o.k.) The other side of this coin is that the situation dictates for you to create something to solve a common problem. (Supply the demand.) Hence the idea of contentment capitalism. If there are enough people feeling the same way as you, then why not figure out a way to satisfy the demand. A bar, a bike shop, a community center -- or a fill-in-the-blank -- this brings us full circle.

    How about you? What do you do when there’s nothing to do?
  • Runner or not, volunteer at local races


    My grandpa used to say, "Runners always look like they're in pain.”

    If you agree with that statement, you probably don't run on a regular basis and you likely stay away from the local races too. But 5K, 10K, and marathon runs are great places to give back to your community; especially when you volunteer.

    Besides promoting fitness and wellness, many events raise money for either scholarships or local social program. Other benefits to volunteering include: "thank you" t-shirts, pizza, drinks, motivation to start running, and meeting a ton of other great people.

    Helping out with a race is also a great way for the whole family to get involved. The support needed usually includes helping with set up, registration, timing, safety, or take down -- it's a terrific way to spend a morning with the kids! And since most runs only last a couple of hours and are often paired with other fun events like parades or carnivals, it's a great way to make memories together.

    The easiest way to get involved is to go to the race website and fill out the online volunteer application. You can also call your city's chamber of commerce to ask about races and the organizers' contact info.

    Who knows? You might find yourself thinking different about runners when you see how much fun races can be.


     
  • Underwater ghost town now a PA playground


    There are one hundred and twenty state parks in Pennsylvania -- all with their own unique stories.

    Some were created to save historical landmarks, others to preserve the vast forests for which the state inherits its name (Sylvania meaning woods or forest land), while others were to be used for industry and outdoor recreational areas for the public.

    The latter is the reason for Codorus State Park near Hanover in York County.

    But the real story behind this beautiful 3,300+ acre area is what lies beneath the manmade lake at the center of the park. It’s not a Loch Ness type monster, nor sunken treasure, but the underwater ghost village of Marburg.

    Marburg was a small community made up of a handful of buildings, including a farmstead,  which can be seen when the water level gets low enough. This actually happens more often than you think, as the damming of Codorus Creek by the P.H. Glatfelter Company was to supply water for its paper mill, and during summer months, the combination of industrial use and evaporation causes the water line to fluctuate, dropping up to 22 feet and revealing the mysterious ruins below.

    You might be asking yourself, why was a corporation allowed to take away the private property of a community? (Cue the late Paul Harvey...“page 2”) It wasn’t just the paper mill that wanted to dam up the creek, in fact, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted a law back in 1964 called “Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act” to purchase private lands to be used as public parks, reservoirs, and other conservation and recreational purposes.

    You see, the state also wanted the land surrounding Marburg to be used as a drinking water reservoir for the town of Spring Grove (north, about ten miles) along with furthering Pennsylvania’s goal to have a state park within 25 miles of each resident.

    So, in 1966, an eleven story tall dam was built by the paper mill people, stopping Codorus Creek’s water flow, flooding the village of Marburg, and creating twenty-six miles of coastline to be enjoyed by the public in the newly formed state park.

    It really is a beautiful park filled with tons of amenities (marina, swimming pool, campground, hiking and horseback trails, dirt bike course, and an award-winning disk golf course). If you’re ever in the the area (Gettysburg, Hanover, York, Harrisburg), plan a day to enjoy this area -- and keep an eye out for Marburg, you might just spot the underwater ghost town.

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    P.S. -  I think we should petition the ghost hunting television shows to put on scuba gear to check out this underwater ghost town to see if it’s haunted.

    P.S.S. - For more information about Codorus State Park, click here.

     
  • Spirit of exploration


    Way back when, my sister and I spotted a rainbow.  Needless to say, we were very excited about the discovery. So we ran to our dad to tell him what we had found.

    My dad stepped outside to admire this miracle of nature and then told my sister and I to jump in the car -- we were going GOLD HUNTING!!

    The Oldsmobile soared out of the driveway and before we knew it, we were deep in the countryside, headed straight toward the rainbow’s end.

    My dad would put the wipers to full squeegee speed and we’d laugh and laugh and laugh, and then we’d hold our breath as we seemed to catch monstrous air going over those gravel hills.

    But alas, the rainbow faded into the distance, and my dad, sister, and I were left without a single gold nugget.

    - - - - -

    I don’t know about you, but to me, it would be of the highest honors to be included in the same list as Ponce de Leon, Leif Ericson, James Cook, and Marco Polo, but the odds do not rest in my favor to be included in this elite explorers’ club.

    The truth of the matter is that there’s very little left on planet earth to discover in the realm of terrain. (All a person has to do is use Google Earth to know this is true.)

    So how do people who have this drive to explore deal with the facts?

    Some sign up for a one-way ticket to Mars. Others turn to fiction and dive into the endless mountains inside their minds.

    Me -- I chose to blend the two which allows me to look at exploration as existential (e.g. personal) and in relative terms. Like a child seeing something for the first time: he or she doesn’t care if a hundred billion others have seen the moon or stars or mountains or trees or dogs or turtles or whatever -- it is still processed as “new” to them.

    Exploration is more than making maps or crossing bodies of water; it’s the seeking out of something new, it’s the hunt, it’s the action of the curious, and it’s meant to be embraced.

    - - - - -

    You’d think as a kid I would have been more disappointed by not finding a fortune that Spring afternoon, but I really wasn’t. On the contrary, I was the happiest kid alive!

    I got to spend an afternoon with my dad and my sister chasing a mystery -- and not to mention, the thrill of a pursuit and story taboot.

     

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