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On June 11, 15 members of the Doc Fritchey chapter of Trout Unlimited gathered on the east bank of Snitz Creek to plant more than 30 tree saplings.

The chapter planted the saplings as part of their conservation efforts on the property. They also planted a willow tree in memory of a late member.

A snapshot of 13 of the 15 Trout Unlimited members who helped plant the trees. (Provided by Rebecca Fronk)

According to Stephan Vegoe, a two-time Trout Unlimited board member, former vice president, and 35-year member, the local chapter was named after a late member, “Doc” Fritchey, a medical doctor from Dauphin County.

“Doc made his mark with a movement that took place 40 years ago when the U.S. Army tried to expand Fort Indiantown Gap into the Stony Valley over the mountain from where they currently are,” Vegoe said. “And [the U.S. Army] had good reason to do that; they were firing artillery, and they wanted to make their artillery range larger and safer.”

Vegoe continued, “Doc got a whole bunch of other people who were opposed to that move because the Stony Valley is a seriously important wilderness in central Pennsylvania. Doc and the chapter and the bunch of other conservationists prevailed, and the U.S. Army said, ‘Okay, we won’t do that.’ Because of that wonderful effort, that conservation movement, the chapter changed its name.”

When Doc and his wife passed, Trout Unlimited was named as a beneficiary in their will.

The east bank of Snitz Creek. (Provided by Rebecca Fronk)

Beyond the history of how the chapter got its name, Vegoe discussed the origins of the chapter’s connection to Snitz Creek.

“We were responsible for the stream bank restoration on 1,200 linear feet of what was the late Mrs. Hershey’s farm,” Vegoe said. “Mrs. Hershey gave the chapter permission to seek a Growing Greener grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we got it.”

Vegoe continued, “We hired a consultant to design the stream bank restoration, and then we hired a contractor to complete the work that needed to be done. We, then, as a chapter, were responsible for maintaining the property in perpetuity.”

A Trout Unlimited member works on the east bank. (Provided by Rebecca Fronk)

One of the chapter’s first initiatives, in accordance with their grant request, was a significant riparian buffer. The purpose of the buffer was to preserve the creek’s health as a waterway for trout, complete with shade and stable ground.

In 2018, the local Trout Unlimited chapter and the Aquatic Resource and Restoration Co. developed the 1,200-foot-long riparian buffer at Snitz Creek.

The first buffer did not flourish, so the chapter replanted it. These tree saplings then washed away in the area’s major flooding last September.

Three Trout Unlimited members plant the next sapling. (Provided by Rebecca Fronk)

On Saturday, members replaced them with oak and redbud saplings, protected by tubes from deer and other wildlife that crave them. The Donegal chapter of Trout Unlimited donated the saplings, and Ames True Temper supplied the means for the members to plant them: pickaxes, shovels, and hammers.

As chapter members wrote in a release, “The creek’s stocked trout could be seen splashing about, feeding on that morning’s hatch of mayflies, midges, and caddisflies.”

Four chapter members who helped plant the memorial willow tree. (Provided by Rebecca Fronk)

Richard “Dick” Puerzer, a late mentor for the chapter’s spring fly-tying programs, passed away last November. The willow tree was selected and approved by the current owners of the property, and the tree was purchased and planted by members of the chapter.

A 6-by-8-inch memorial plaque cemented to a limestone boulder identifies the type of tree and who it was planted in memory of.

“[Dick] was a long-time, active member of the chapter. … If we held an event, Dick was there. So, somebody decided [sometime] last fall, after Dick died, that it would be a good thing to do,” Vegoe said. “Members come and go.”

According to Vegoe, the local chapter currently has almost 700 members from Lebanon and Dauphin counties. In addition, the chapter board is made up of almost a dozen members who live in these counties and are themselves fly fishermen, conservationists, or otherwise interested volunteers.

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.