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Group continues mission to protect Glade Run Lake

Glade Run Lake Conservancy treasurer T. Lyle Ferderber paddles to shore Thursday evening during the conservancy's food truck night open house at Glade Run. Butler Eagle file photo

The pressure from the water against the dam led to Glade Run Lake being drained in 2011, but pressure from a group of dedicated neighbors got the dam rebuilt and the lake restored.

Glade Run Lake dates to the 1950s, when the state used federal money to buy about 145 acres of land and create a 52-acre lake for recreational fishing and other outdoor activities.

As the Glade Run Lake Conservancy notes on its website, on the opening day of trout season in 1955 as many as 8,000 anglers showed up. And its popularity would continue, attracting thousands of visitors annually and bringing in more than $1.2 million to the local economy.

That changed in 2011 when a routine inspection found cracks in the earthen dam, forcing it to be drained. The estimated repair cost was $4 million, far more than the state was willing — or able — to commit to the project.

It looked like the lake would never be refilled, but that answer wasn't good enough for a group of people who lived near the lake.

T. Lyle Ferderber, treasurer of the conservancy, said it was the shock of the loss that drove action.

"When the lake was drained abruptly, suddenly and without explanation, a despaired group of people were moved to work to find some way to save the lake and bring it back," Ferderber said in a 2020 fundraising video.

The group's early efforts soon coalesced into the Glade Run Lake Conservancy, and Sigmund "Siggy" Pehel, a Middlesex Township resident, became the board president.

The efforts of Pehel and the other 10 board members led to then-Gov. Tom Corbett including $2 million for the project in the state's 2014 budget. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also agreed to contribute $4 million that year.

After securing the money came design and then construction. The project officially broke ground in October 2015.

During a groundbreaking ceremony, Jack Cohen, president of the county Tourism & Convention Bureau, paid tribute to the grit of the people who kept working to find the money for the project, even when they were told it could never happen.

“It's amazing what can be done when people say 'We're doing this,'” Cohen said. “You didn't accept 'no,' and this is what it takes, for a community to get together.”

Former County Commissioner Bill McCarrier put it more bluntly in a joke at the same ceremony.

“Well they did persevere and have the vision, even though Siggy was a pain in the butt a lot of the time,” McCarrier said. “But that's what it takes.”

In an October 2015 letter to the editor of the Butler Eagle announcing that work had begun, Pehel offered his opinion on what the project took.

Before the state made any commitments, the board had received a $30,000 pledge from Middlesex Township and a pledge of $110,000 from the county commissioners, he pointed out. And much more work came after that.

"Simply put, it took huge doses of perseverance, dedication, passion and making sure we had an elected official in our district who really cared and wanted to help," Pehel wrote. "It was (then) state Sen. Randy Vulakovich who worked hand in hand with the Glade Run Lake Conservancy and came to the rescue. He gathered the commitment and support of state Sens. Scott Hutchinson and Don White. This group petitioned former Gov. Tom Corbett to match the $2 million that the conservancy had already pledged.

"Their collective efforts made all our hard work finally pay off."

In April 2017, about six years after the lake was drained, it officially reopened, stocked with fish once again.

But that was never the end goal. The group hoped to do more than just restore the lake — it wanted to protect it into the future.

In the 2020 fundraising video, Pehel explained that as soon as the lake was refilled, the conservancy began working with groups like Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Allegheny Land Trust to make sure the watershed feeding the lake is protected, even as more development comes to the area.

State grants have helped the conservancy protect nearly 200 acres around the lake. The end goal, one the group admits on its website is an ambitious one, is to protect the entire 2,000-acre watershed.

"What we wanted to do, our design," Pehel said in the video, "was to create a watershed around this beautiful lake, protect the streams, protect the properties, ensure that our grandchildren and their children can enjoy this lake forever."

Seventh grade science teacher Amanda Stavish prepares Mars Area Middle School students to release over 150 rainbow trout into Glade Run Lake in May 2023. Butler Eagle file photo
An aerial photo take in 2014 shows Glade Run Lake after it was drained in 2011. Butler Eagle file photo
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission workers check how deep the water is at Glade Run Lake in 2011 as it is being drained. Butler Eagle file photo
Construction workers are building the dam walls at Glade Run Lake in Middlesex Township in March 2016. Butler Eagle file photo
Glade Run Lake Conservancy President Siggy Pehel speak during the Ribbon Cutting ceremony at Glade Run Lake in Middlesex Township in 2017. Butler Eagle file photo

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