Appalachian National Scenic Trail

National Park Service buys Cumberland County land, saving 'White Rocks' from development

May 13, 2011, 8:24 am

We’re almost at the top.

Looking down at the pearly white rock for just the right ledge to push off from or the right handhold to grab onto, we navigate the rocky end of what was an uphill but otherwise-mild trail. Robin, our golden retriever guide, seems to know the path well as she hops from rock to rock ahead of us.

I pause to catch my breath, still looking at my feet, when I get to the top. Then I look up.

The view is breathtaking.

To the south, is a pristine expanse of trees — mostly leafless as spring nears although there are a few evergreens — that cover the valley below and continue up the next ridge of South Mountain. To the north, the farmland of southern Cumberland County stretches to the mountains that mark the start of Perry County.

Karen Lutz, mid-Atlantic director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, is still wowed by the sight though she knows it like the back of her hand.

“That’s what we bought,” she said, perched on a cliff overlooking the valley and the next ridge. “That’s what us Americans bought. It belongs all of us now.”

Just four years ago, developers sought to fill that valley with a 268-house development. It would take an act of Congress to touch that land now, Lutz said.

In February, state and federal agencies paid $3.2 million for 840 acres of land buffering White Rock Trail — which used to be part of the Appalachian Trail but now feeds into it.