The celebration will include speeches by Paul B. Bartle, chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, and state Rep. Jon D. Fox (R., Abington), and a visit by Smokey Bear.
On April 24, 1976, the dedication of the nonprofit association's first 49 acres followed the completion of a three-year study of 1,600 acres in Upper and Lower Moreland Townships and Bryn Athyn Borough.
The study, which was proposed by the Pitcairn family and the family's investment company, took inventory of the acreage belonging to area churches and private property owners. From the study grew the Central Pennypack Corridor Study Masterplan, which initiated the concept of the wilderness park.
While marking the anniversary, the celebration also will be a time for the association to reinforce that concept and the association's commitment to wildlife preservation, said Witwer, who still acts as executive director.
"The whole theme here is to have a wilderness experience in our urbane area, and to have it for this and future generations," Witwer said.
In preserving a habitat for wildlife and the enjoyment of visitors, the Pennypack Watershed Association has installed nature trails on 150 acres that are open to the public. Its land includes 356 acres managed by the association and approximately 200 acres on legal commitment for dedication.
The holdings grew from just 25 acres donated from a private estate.
In 1973, the estate of George and Joanna Ruck, which was willed to the Natural Land Trust, was given to the Pennypack Watershed. Until that time, the association worked on the problems of water pollution from its storefront office. After the donation, the association moved its offices into the buildings where the Rucks once lived.
"We were very glad to be in the community," Witwer said of the storefront office. "But we had nothing tangible. . . . We had a tremendous amount of interest among the public between '71 and the time we came here.
"But, conservation practices, an educational program featured around a nature center, hub or core to a wilderness park, all these things were missing in our earlier years."
With the acquisition of the first piece of land, the subsequent acquisition of other land and legal commitments for even more, the association began to build what Witwer said was its goal - 800 acres of preserved wildlife.
He said the association has continued its initial project of studying water pollution, but has added four others. They are flood plain management, environmental review of land development proposed by others, open space preservation and environmental education.
One of the association's recent goals is acquiring land that would connect Philadelphia's Pennypack Park with the Pennypack Watershed in Huntingdon Valley.
The Montgomery County commissioners have applied for grant money to
purchase the land. By purchasing private property along a corridor leading to the watershed, the association hopes to have a path of preserved land from the Delaware River in Northeast Philadelphia to the river's tributary in Huntingdon Valley.