On May 12 and 13, and June 6 and 7, 2011, Cathy Pedler, Forest Watch Coordinator for the Allegheny Defense Project (ADP), and Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) walked the boundary between the Allegany State Park in New York, and the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. Our mission was to locate the 15 granite boundary markers that were placed in 1888 at one mile intervals to demarcate the Pennsylvania – New York state boundary.
The boundary survey is part of a larger effort by ADK, ADP and New York State to protect the ASP from potential incursions by oil and gas drilling companies. Drilling has already extensively impacted the Allegheny National Forest on the Pennsylvania side of the NY-PA line, causing erosion and water pollution in streams that flow north into New York's Allegany State Park.
The New York – Pennsylvania border runs from the western shore of the Delaware River 225 miles west to Chautauqua County in a straight east to west line just south of the 42nd parallel. The southern boundary of Allegany State Park with Pennsylvania runs about 16 miles, marked by square granite stone monuments that are typically 7 inches by 7 inches and 7 inches to a foot high. About three feet of the stone monument is hidden under the ground.
To date, Cathy and Neil have walked about 10 miles of the border and found 11 of the 15 monuments. We used Garmin Oregon Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that can display the latest United States Geological Survey topographic maps. The boundary line is portrayed on the maps as a dotted line, and the border stone monuments are depicted as squares with dots on the boundary line.
We were able to mark the squares as GPS waypoints and follow the dotted line of the boundary line from monument to monument. We expect to find the last 4 monuments by the end of July. We marked each monument and the trees at the four corners of each monument with bright yellow crime scene tape. We recorded the exact latitude and longitude GPS coordinates for each monument and photographed the setting of each monument.
Finding these 7 inch by 7 inch by 7 inch square monuments was the first step in a re-survey of the state boundary by licensed surveyors for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). The re-survey project is part of an effort to clearly mark a border that is poorly marked now and where oil and gas drilling activities in Pennsylvania are taking place within feet of the border.
On our boundary walk of June 7, we followed a line of orange tape marking a route north into Allegany State Park from monument 172. We found that an energy company had surveyed and marked five wellpads well inside New York. In 2010, a poorly protected drill waste pit overflowed in a rain storm into the Pennsylvania headwaters of the important Quaker Run tributary Yeager Brook. The brook was turned a grayish white by the drill waste, brine and fracking water. The same driller was pumping water out of the little stream, substantially reducing the flow of water into New York.
With vigilance from our New York Attorney General and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, these gas and oil drilling operations have not yet taken place in New York. With the recent approval of the Allegany State Park Master Plan, the unspoiled and undeveloped 84% of this largest and wildest New York State Park is legally designated as a Park Preservation area, the equivalent of a wilderness in the state owned portions of the Adirondacks and Catskills.
The next stage of the boundary survey project will involve two professional surveyors from the NYSDOT and the OPRHP who will begin a full survey of the entire southern boundary of Allegany State Park. They will also mark the boundary lines so that ADK and ADP volunteers will be able to create a blazed trail along the border area to create a “bright line” and a sharp border demarcation for drillers and loggers who might cross the border without knowing its exact location. The border trail will also enable park staff to easily access the border area from North – South roads and trails that transect the border at intervals. Using the new survey markings, ADK and ADP volunteers will also relocate Allegany State Park signs that are currently posted too far north of the true border and install 150 new signs in poorly marked areas between the stone mile monuments. Sign-up to help ADK and ADP with the boundary project!