Editor’s Note: This is a column on area watersheds by Blyden Potts and guest columnists to spread awareness of the area’s tributaries and the efforts of area volunteers to keep them.
As you know if you read last week’s column, Heishman’s Mill is already a kind of historical museum. With further repairs to make its milling elements operational, it could be a “living history” museum. Imagine a tour guide in period costume, giving small group tours, talking about the history of the mill while demonstrating how milling was done back in the days of water power. Around that core, the mill could also be a lot more.
Mill owner Randy Heishman intends the mill to be available for broader educational purposes. It might be used by community groups, or class fieldtrips from area high schools, or university classes on the history of local mills, local history generally, birdwatching, fly-tying or fishing classes, aquatic biology, ecology, hydrology, watershed conservation, or any other topic where the mill’s location and direct access to the creek is an asset. There has already been some collaboration with Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) at Dickinson College and Shippensburg University’s Center for Land Use and Sustainability (CLUS).
A 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation, Friends of Historic Heishman’s Mill (FHHM), has been created to help with
educational programs, community outreach, and the ongoing preservation of the mill and dam. See www.friendsofheishmansmill.org or email Contact@friendsofheishmansmill.org for more information.
FHHM is also focused on the mill as a place for canoe and kayak paddlers to access the creek. Presently the western, upstream end of the Conodoguinet Creek Water Trail is at North Middleton Park, northwest of Carlisle.
Plans exists for extending the trail westward. Having a safe, well-maintained, and official portage for paddlers to get around the dam at Heishman’s Mill is a crucial aspect of extending the water trail. (See www.visitcumberlandvalley.com/outdoor/parks-and-wildlife-area/conodoguinet-creek-water-trail/)
Plans to create that portage are underway. Existing wooden steps were recently repaired and improved to provide access downstream of the dam. Under FHHM’s oversight, in conjunction with Pennsylvania Fish & Boat
Commission and DCNR, and with input from Canoe Club of Greater Harrisburg (CCGH) and other organizations, a creek access point where paddlers can safely take their canoes or kayaks out of the water is planned for the upstream side, making an effective portage at the mill.
The area on the west side of the mill is just big enough for a micro-park built around the creek access. An artist’s rendering, by Patricia Keough of Carlisle, shows what the space could become. Benches face the mill pond.
People fish from the bank. Signs are available for the public to read about the mill, the fish bypass, or local flora and fauna. A gently sloping trail, paved with environmentally-friendly Aqua Storm Pavers, leads up from the canoe and kayak landing. The spirit of Will Foshag stands by the mill, looking on in approval.
What the drawing does not show is a wheelchair-accessible viewing area, which has been added to the plan.
Friends of Historic Heishman’s Mill is in the process of planning a calendar of events at the Mills this year, to raise awareness and operating funds. This is expected to include historic tours of the site, as well as one or more bluegrass music events. The calendar of events also includes a one-day canoe and kayak Sojourn, from Bridgewater road to the Mill, planned for May 6. Participants can reserve a canoe for the event, if they do not
have one of their own. Registration materials and information may be found on the FHHM website, www.friendsofheishmansmill.org. Dates for other events will also soon be listed on that website.
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