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Earth Conservancy Head Highlights Nonprofit’s Role In New Economic Development Project


Earth Conservancy Executive Director Mike Dziak was in the guest speaker lineup at the groundbreaking for a new $209.4 million commercial construction project in Hanover Township and Nanticoke last week because his nonprofit organization reclaimed the mine-scarred site.


“This is like a dream come true,” Dziak said during the gathering near a partially completed structure set to house an e-commerce building, the first of three structures totaling 2.3 million square feet under construction by Missouri-based NorthPoint Development.


Called “Hanover 9,” this 342-acre site across from Luzerne County Community College was part of the 16,000 acres of former Blue Coal land that Earth Conservancy acquired in 1994, Dziak told the group.


At that time, the nonprofit had to figure out what to do with the property so it would benefit the area, he said. Since then, the organization has stuck to a land use plan that carved out areas for green space, recreation, commercial and residential development, he said.


This year, Earth Conservancy will reach a milestone of 8,000 acres placed in outside hands for conservation, inching closer to its goal of 10,000 acres, he said, noting this land will “stay green forever.”


The nonprofit has spent nearly $50 million reclaiming more than 2,000 acres, including Hanover 9, largely aided by government grants, he said.


Earth Conservancy proceeded with the reclamation work at Hanover 9 in 2012 and 2014, despite worries the state would not fully fund the $90 million South Valley Parkway needed to provide direct highway access to the site from Interstate 81.


The parkway’s subsequent construction ahead of schedule is opening up 7,000 acres for commercial and residential development, officials said.


“It’s a tremendous opportunity for not only this development but Luzerne County Community College,” Dziak said of the parkway. “You don’t have to go through town anymore to get there.”

NorthPoint purchased the Hanover 9 site from Earth Conservancy for approximately $10 million through two separate transactions, records show.


Proceeds from the sale will be spent on other projects in the nonprofit’s mission to put former Blue Coal land back into productive use, including mine reclamation and the construction of roads linking some sites to the new South Valley Parkway, Dziak has said.


Much of Earth Conservancy’s focus is now on another mine-scarred holding — a 2,200-acre swath known as the Bliss/Truesdale site.


Located primarily in Hanover and Newport townships, the Bliss/Truesdale project will create a mix of residential, industrial and public open space after it is cleaned up, Dziak has said.

Between 400 and 500 acres must be reclaimed, he said.


NorthPoint brought, Adidas and Patagonia Inc. to its first 172-acre project, which also was on former Earth Conservancy land in Hanover Township.


Earth Conservancy had borrowed $9 million to fill deep mine pits and contour that site to eliminate ponds and prevent runoff. It was an effort to “change the face” of the once blackened terrain of the Route 29 gateway area visible from Interstate 81, Dziak has said.


“The trip has been great. The vision is coming in place, and the dream is right here,” Dziak said during his closing remarks last week.

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