Reviving a popular nature area

Reviving a popular nature area

A popular Union County nature area enjoyed by hundreds each year is getting long planned and much needed improvements with a little help from PPL.

Koons Trail along Buffalo Creek in Mifflinburg, originally created by Mifflinburg Middle School teacher Joe Southerton and his students in 1990, is getting new kiosks, footbridges and platforms.

The trail was hit hard by the emerald ash borer, a beetle that feeds on ash trees, and was damaged by previous flooding.

Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy, a Lewisburg-based nonprofit, holds a conservation easement on the trail and maintains it. We granted $3,500 from the PPL Foundation to help fund the improvement project. The upgrades will help the conservancy draw the public to the site and ultimately serve its mission of getting families outside to learn about the environment.

The PPL Foundation contributes more than $3 million annually to nonprofit organizations supporting student success from cradle to career; advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; and promoting the development of vibrant and sustainable communities.

“We are sincerely grateful to PPL,” said Geoff Goodenow, the organization’s coordinator. “The funds from PPL will help to create much needed footbridges along the paths which meander within restored wetlands south of the covered bridge. Visitors to the area enjoy seeing wildflowers, various types of birds and hearing a seasonal chorus of amphibians.”

Each year, hundreds of people participate in programs held in the trail area along with the incalculable number of local residents who visit daily.

The trail is on part of a 30-acre property once owned by Mifflinburg resident and businesswoman Mary Koons. Current owners Ryan and Samantha Sabo have expanded access to the property by creating additional walkways in adjacent wetland meadows and fields. The area is private property but is open to the public from dawn to dusk for people and pets.

The Merrill Linn Conservancy is a 501c3 nonprofit. Its mission includes preservation/conservation of the natural resources and beauty of land and waterways and to engage the public in creating awareness and instilling responsible stewardship of our resources.

Teaching youngsters to become future conservation ambassadors

Teaching youngsters to become future conservation ambassadors

Lorelei is a young artist who took to drawing at a very young age. She just didn’t realize how much art meant to her and what it could lead to until she attended Wildlife Leadership Academy in central Pennsylvania.

Tracie Witter, a PPL Electric Utilities regional affairs director, visited with students at Wildlife Leadership Academy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was at the academy where she was introduced to nature journaling. Her artistry and new-found interest in nature became a passion.

“The lessons we learn through the Wildlife Leadership Academy create a platform for us to continue our work as conservation ambassadors with all sorts of interests,” Lorelei wrote in a recent blog post published by the academy. “Citizen scientists don’t just wear lab coats. They write, read, engage, and draw, too. The sky isn’t the limit when it comes to nature. It’s part of the story – a story I enjoy exploring through art.”

Consider Lorelei one of Wildlife Leadership Academy’s many success stories.

The group, started in 2007 to engage and empower high school age youth to become conservation ambassadors, has graduated 760 young people from 62 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, as well as others from eight other states. And those students have reached 113,000 people across the state with their outreach.

Past students have combined to conduct 6,327 conservation education, communication, service, creative art, and outdoor mentorship projects and have engaged in over 24,000 contact hours in these projects and with the public.

We are a proud sponsor of the group, having provided more than $15,000 in support of its programs.

The PPL Foundation contributes more than $3 million annually to nonprofit organizations supporting student success from cradle to career; advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; and promoting the development of vibrant and sustainable communities.

The Academy begins with summer field schools focusing on wildlife/fisheries biology and conservation as well as leadership skills development and continues with community outreach. The five field schools focus on white-tailed deer, bass and warm water fisheries, brook trout and freshwater fisheries, wild turkey, and black bear. The academy works with Cedar Crest College in Allentown to offer three college credits to students who attend a field school and complete necessary requirements.

“The work the academy does to instill a love of nature and leadership skills in so many of your young people really goes a long way in helping us work toward a sustainable future,” said Tracie Witter, a PPL regional affairs director who serves on the academy’s board. “I’ve seen first-hand the profound affect the organization can have on the students who attend these programs. We’re pleased to be able to support those efforts.”

The academy typically receives 200 to 300 nominations for prospective students and accepts 100 new students each year – 20 for each of the five camps. After attending a camp, each student is tasked with sharing what they know with others through various forms of community outreach. Many are invited to return as peer mentors. The academy managed to continue its programs during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering them virtually. For 2021, it is offering a hybrid program.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know that you could be a plant ecologist or an outdoor writer,” said Michele Kittell Connolly, Wildlife Leadership Academy’s executive director, who has a biology degree. “One of the major benefits our program is that it opens our students to eyes at a young age to the opportunities available for careers in conservation. This career exploration combined with their educational and leadership skills development at the Academy, we believe, gives these young leaders the confidence to make a difference for our natural resource now and well into the future.”

More info on the Wildlife Leadership Academy.

Lorelei’s story.

Keeping first responders safe

Keeping first responders safe

When it comes to responding to emergencies and keeping the public safe, police, firefighters, and ambulance personnel are critical.

And we want to make sure they’re safe while protecting the public, particularly when they are working around overhead and underground power lines and other electrical equipment.

We’re hoping a new program will do just that. We recently introduced our new electrical safety presentation designed specifically for 911 centers and emergency management agencies.

The response was impressive. Representatives from 23 of the 29 counties we serve joined the free, one-hour Zoom presentation we offered in early May. In all, 86 people were on the call to learn valuable safety lessons.

“It’s always beneficial for our 911 dispatch staff to be involved in this type of training,” said Daniel S. Bellesfield, Lehigh County’s 911 Operations Coordinator. “While we are not physically on scene, being trained and familiar with equipment and terminology will help to expedite responses to emergencies.”

Representatives from PPL’s Public Safety, Emergency Preparedness, Operations and Regional Affairs groups shared valuable information and tips.

“We admire all of the work our first responders do, and we appreciate the willingness of 911 centers and emergency management agencies to join us to learn about what they have to keep in mind when they’re directing first responders at emergency scenes,” said Mark Santayana, public safety manager at PPL Electric Utilities. “And for those who are well versed in these safety measures, this program helps reinforce their importance.”

First responders: Check out additional resources and information specifically for you, as well as an online electrical safety certification course here:

Our Live Line Exhibit is back on tour

Our Live Line Exhibit is back on tour

We’re powering our Live Line Electrical Safety Exhibit back up and taking it on the road for a 2021 tour.

And we want to give your organization a chance to reserve your own demonstration.

The exhibit is a 7,200-volt electrical distribution grid that features live electrical wires, utility poles and transformers, used to present dangers associated with electricity. Trained PPL staff wearing protective equipment use ladders, gloves, shovels and other tools in a controlled environment to recreate sparks, flames, smoke and crackling that occur when items come in contact with live electrical lines. They’ll also show what happens when a tree branch and a Mylar balloon contact wires.

The exhibit will be making stops across our 29-county service territory through early November, following a lengthy hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And all demonstrations are free.

We recently kicked off our tour by visiting Rutherford Fire Co. in Harrisburg and providing a demonstration to 32 first responders.

To schedule a demonstration, email Doug Haupt at or call 610-297-2461. Available dates for 2021 are limited, but we are starting to accept bookings for 2022 as well.

The following are some requests for groups hosting the exhibit:

  • An audience of at least 50 people is required.
  • We need an outdoor area suitable to accommodate the exhibit.
  • We ask that hosts invite surrounding first responder organizations to attend.
  • We appreciate if host organizations allow the general public to attend the demonstration.

The exhibit will be hosted outdoors and our presenters will follow all of the most up-to-date COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Health Department.

Don’t miss your chance to see the Live Line Exhibit back in action!


12 Tips for a safer home or business

12 Tips for a safer home or business

The start of National Electrical Safety Month is a reminder to take inventory of electrical components around your home and business. It’s also a good time to share with others the importance of staying safe near overhead and underground power lines and other electrical equipment.

Always stay away from any power lines that may fall to the ground and always assume they’re energized. If you see a fallen line report it by calling 1-800-342-5775 and we’ll send someone out to the location.

Here are some electrical safety tips to consider all-year round.

Inside your home or business:

  • Make sure all power cords are in good condition and not frayed or cracked.
  • Do not put nails or staples through cords and don’t run cords under carpeting.
  • Make sure plugs fit securely and are not forced into an outlet.
  • Use light bulbs that are the correct, recommended wattage.
  • Use extension cords only for temporary, not permanent wiring.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where water and electricity can make contact.
  • Contact a licensed electrical contractor if you have flickering lights, sparks, non-functioning outlets, or need wiring repairs or upgrades.


  • Before doing any work that involves ladders or climbing, make sure there are no power lines overhead.
  • Know what’s below! Call 811 at least three business days before starting a project that involves digging.
  • Don’t plant trees under power lines or near other electrical equipment.
  • Stay away from pad-mounted transformers, the large green metal boxes that are typically seen on the ground in housing developments.
  • Keep power tools away from water and don’t operate then when it’s raining.

For more electrical safety resources, check out