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“Defenders of Water on the Rebound”
By Mike Stephens
Across the Nation, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) has a long standing reputation as “Defenders of Soil, Air, Woods, Waters, & Wildlife”. With national watershed education and outreach programs such as “Save Our Streams”, “Protecting Clean Water”, “Clean Boats Campaign”, and “Marcellus Shale Fracking Education” the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) spends a lot of time and resources devoted to the waterways that as anglers we love and affectionately call our homes. But in early September, Nature unleashed an unprecedented, unbiased, and unexpected display of power. Among many of its victims were central PA’s own defenders of water, the IWLA York Chapter #67 in Dallastown, PA.
Located in southern York County Pennsylvania at the top end of Lake Redman along the banks of the East Branch of the Codorus Creek, the IWLA York Chapter is situated in a small valley known as the Waltonian Acres, one of its prime features being the East Branch of the Codorus Creek itself. On Wednesday September 7th, 2011 Nature created its own version of “shock & awe” as this normally peaceful creek became a raging beast as flash flooding pushed record levels water 4 to 6 feet over the top of its banks. The violent water washed through the club grounds at the York IWLA shooting facilities, picnic pavilions, playground, and the trout nursery facilities leaving a good portion of the 100 acre facility in a shamble of wet debris and a thick coat of mud. Almost 3 weeks later, the high water lines look as fresh as they did the day after the flood. I spoke to several members that relayed that this flooding incident and damage at this location was much worse than the benchmarked flooding event of Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
Some of the largest damage to the club was incurred on the pistol, rifle, & trap ranges. The York IWLA, or “Ikes” as we commonly call ourselves, frequently hold action shooting competitions and were scheduled to hold a monthly USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) pistol and shotgun match that weekend that was intended to help prepare local competition shooters for USPSA Nationals in Las Vegas, NV as well as the upcoming World Shoot in Rhodes, Greece. Local competition matches of this sort require a lot of preplanning as well as 1 to 2 days of set up. The flood waters tore large concrete slabs out of the ground, made the main road on the club impassable, and washed away countless shooting benches, stools, and costly range props used for competition. The remaining range equipment & targets were either ruined or left in large debris piles. Everything was covered with 6 to 12 inches of grimy, smelly mud. But the Ikes would not be deterred by the aftermath.
By Thursday afternoon the flood waters had receded to a point where club members could start putting their club grounds back in order. By Saturday morning the entire club grounds was like a busy beehive. It was certainly a site to see. Dozens of IWLA members from at least 3 different states responded to the club’s call for help. The club’s back hoe was busy moving drift wood and dead trees off of the trout nursery and other areas while trout committee members were busy restoring the nursery and its building. (Fortunately no trout are kept in the nursery this time of year at the club.) Downed trees and large debris were cut up and removed. A club member brought in their personal skid loader and repaired the entire road leading into the club. Dozens of members recovered, reorganized, cleaned off, and repaired shooting range equipment and other “gear adrift” throughout the property. Other members spent countless hours reclaiming trash and other debris throughout the club grounds and along the creek. And most members got a turn at shoveling some of that mud at some point in time.
As in many other areas of central Pennsylvania clean up still continues at the York Izaak Walton League. The initial major cleanup effort on club grounds was met with swift justice by pure dedication of IWLA members on their home turf. With some minor modifications the monthly USPSA match went on as scheduled that very weekend. Match attendance was low due to weather conditions but was still attended and supported by about 50 competitors from 4 different states that had faith in the dedication of the York Izaak Walton League. Some areas of the club are still closed and many areas are still plagued with a coating of what seems to be an ever present mud. Certainly this is not the worst tragedy that occurred during the September flooding and not the only example of local community working together for a common purpose. Not just locally on their own club grounds, but Nationwide, this is a great example of how hard the “Ikes” work all the time. This one single show of force truly characterizes the hard work and dedication that the Izaak Walton League gives to America.
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