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Skytop Lodge received the coveted PMVB Green Tourism Achievement Award for our conservation and ecological efforts here at Skytop Lodge! With a history tied to nature, Skytop has always made efforts through awareness and preservation programs, and working with some of the country’s top ecological organizations.
A member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America and Green Hotel Association, Skytop Lodge sits atop 5500 acres including deciduous and evergreen forests, scrub oak forests, rocky outcroppings, a rhododendron swamp, a glacial bog, and small grassy meadows, which have all been held in conservation since 1928.
Wildlife conservation efforts have been an integral part of the history of Skytop Lodge, and the original forester, Pat Fasano, worked hard to develop a trail system for the guests to enjoy. Pat also began a wildlife inventory of the property to provide a baseline for future management decisions which he knew to be important to conservation efforts such as the preservation of a forest and its inhabitants. His published book, The Nature of Skytop, was ahead of its time.
Under the management of former naturalist, John Serrao, much of the bird life, forest community and reptile and amphibian inhabitants of the property were recorded. This information was subsequently shared with statewide organizations such as the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, the Pennsylvania Herpetological Atlas, the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, the Pennsylvania Biological Team, the Amphibian and Reptile Technical Committee, and the Dragonfly and Damselfly Technical Committee.
Recent conservation efforts include providing nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, Purple Martins, and Screech Owls which are monitored during breeding season, sharing results with the Pennsylvania Society of Ornithology and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A similar program is underway building bat boxes.
Skytop also chose to refrain from broadcast spraying of gypsy moths recently to preserve other insect species that would be harmed by such a wide attack, and when installing the new Tree Top Adventure zip line obstacle course, tree removal was kept to a minimum with much of the removed wood being used for on-site projects. Conservation continues inside the lodge, too, with farm-to-table dining, highlighting local farmers and growers at their annual Harvest Lake Stroll in the autumn.
To preserve the dropping honeybee populations, Skytop’s Bee Mindful initiative is distributing over 10,000 packages of wildflower seeds to help fight Colony Collapse Disorder, by helping others grow wildflower gardens like the ones at Skytop that have provided homes to our winged friends for over 80 years. Skytop is also arranging a viewing of the award winning documentary, The Vanishing of the Bees, to raise awareness, and bringing a local bee keeper on site to share the art of bee keeping and the secrets of honey.
The Skytop Young Explorers Club is encouraging kids to grow community gardens and make Earth Day Pledges on our Facebook page where Earth lovers young and old can share photos of their projects. Skytop Naturalist, Rick Koval, educate visitors about the Skytop native animal collection containing a 7-foot Black Rat snake, a Timber Rattlesnake, a Northern Copperhead snake, (who all chow down on frozen rodents at public feeding times), an Eastern Garter snake (who prefers to slurp up his earthworms), Bullfrogs, Green frogs, American toads, 5 species of salamanders, and a donated 45 year old box turtle named Myrtle who is fond of eating pancakes!
Rick also hosts edible plant walks teaching how to identify safe plants for food, teas, mushrooms, and medicinal use, as well as poisonous plants to avoid. He highlights popular edible species include stag horn sumac, which makes a tea like pink lemonade, sassafras for root beer, pineapple chamomile (which tastes like, you guessed it, pineapple!), wild basil, dandelions, and acorns, as well as rare plants, such as bog rosemary growing in Skytop’s remote cranberry bog, which must be left undisturbed. Rick published this great acorn bread recipe in the Pocono Journal last January.
Skytop also works with leading conservation organizations. In 2004, Skytop Lodge hosted a Wooley Adelgid Summit organized by the Paradise Creek Study and the Brodhead Watershed Association to examine the aphid that infecting the Eastern Hemlock trees (not to be confused with the Poisonous Hemlock Shrub). These trees help prevent river bank soil erosion and provide cooling shade that shelters many forms of wild life. Working with the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Survey a plant and grass survey was completed, and a tree survey of the golf course is underway toward certification from Audubon International.
The Pocono Avian Research Center has conducted research including an investigation on the productivity and survivorship of the breeding songbirds at Skytop Lodge. Information generated at Skytop is shared with the Institute for Bird Populations and the United States Geological Survey, the Migratory Bird Office and the Bird Banding Laboratory. A 10 year study by the Pocono Aviary Center on Northern Saw-whet Owl at Skytop has provided evidence of a strong population that has kept the Saw-whet owl from being listed as a Species of Concern and offers encouragement.
Ann Pilcher of the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau stated, “What really made [Skytop] stand out was their Bee Mindful Program and all the efforts of their naturalists. We were really looking for someone that was a Green Hotel [Association} member and made conservation and nature a priority.”
Skytop Lodge is proud to be recognized for their efforts and will continue their ongoing conservation plans to enrich and strengthen our beautiful natural surroundings for generations to come.
Skytop is a member of the Sustainable Business Network