Warren County is a good place to get away.
In May, a group of 15 young men paid a two-day visit to Chapman State Park.
Like many visitors, they fished in the lake, hunted for geocaches, and generally enjoyed nature.
Photo submitted for publication
From Pittsburgh to Chapman State Park
Several youths from Pittsburgh, above photo, fish near the spillway at Chapman State Park. In the photo below, members of the group discover a geocache on park lands. The 15 boys and seven adults spent two days and one night at the park.
Unlike most, they had not done those things before.
The young men, and the seven adults who accompanied them, came to Warren County from Pittsburgh with the Iota Phi Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated.
They went through a fishing safety program, practiced casting, and plied the waters, Environmental Education Specialist Jen Moore said.
They were introduced to global positioning system (GPS) equipment, how to find the coordinates of hidden geocaches, and how to put the two together to get out in the woods and find caches.
They even got to see a bear.
Unfortunately, it was a bear that had taken a liking to raiding trash for food.
"The bear became a nuisance when it began tearing siding off a house to get into the trash," Moore said. "The Pennsylvania Game Commission set a trap and caught the bear Saturday morning."
Wildlife Conservation Officer "Dave Donachy transported the bear to the Amphitheater at the park," she said. "He estimated the weight to be 325 pounds, a large male."
The bear was tagged so the commission can track it.
"Hopefully this experience will keep the bear away from humans," Donachy told the students.
Last year, the first in the cooperative effort between Chapman State Park and Iota Phi, the students spent one day in mid-June.
The program expanded this year to include camping and stretch the stay and activities to two days.
Omega Psi Phi requires its member organizations to perform several programs each year. Among those is a fatherhood and mentoring requirement.
"We have been working on this relationship with the Iota Phi Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated for about two years now," Moore said. "Our first approach was to bring attention to the little known role the Allegheny National Forest has played in terms of the African-American communities relationship, history and contribution towards helping to conserve this land base."
Moore, Susan Stout of the Forest Service Research Lab in Irvine, and Carlton Heywood of Omega Psi Phi, brainstormed an idea.
"Through Carlton's love of fishing we thought that it would be a very symbolic notion to have the Forest Service and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity incorporated-Iota Phi Chapter host a fishing outing at Twin Lakes because it was built by African Americans from the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the 1930's," Moore said. "Little did we know that several members of the Iota Phi Chapter would come forward with the news that their fathers were a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps and that they worked here on the ANF. This was quite an affirmation, especially for Susan because she had been trying to locate relatives of these folks for quite some time."
"Moreover, we have sought to highlight the Underground Railroad history of the ANF, the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps and its two African American camps here on the forest, and a number of African American communities on the ANF in the early twentieth century," Moore said. "One of the awesome things about this idea is that Omega is a part of a larger group called the National Pan-Hellenic Council which is comprised of nine largely African-American fraternity and sorority groups that have a great deal of influence and exposure not only in the city of Pittsburgh but on a national and international level as well."
Stepping up the program for an additional day is not the extent of the organizers' goals.
"Our ultimate hope is that not only will Pittsburgh's African American community begin to see this place as a valuable place because it provides their drinking water but also a place to recreate with families and make memories to pass down to future generations," Moore said. "When we initially brought everyone to the table in Pittsburgh, we also sat down with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and they were actually envisioning something like this taking place on a national level with their involvement. If this idea takes off we feel that it might also have a sizable economic impact to this region of the state."