BEDFORD - A proposed wind turbine project atop a nearby ridge has put the Dutch Corner Rural Historic District on a list of 11 at-risk places throughout the state, nonprofit historical preservation organization Preservation Pennsylvania announced recently.
While most of the at-risk places on the list are soon-to-be demolished buildings, Dutch Corner is not facing your typical threat, spokeswoman Erin Hammerstedt said following the announcement by the Harrisburg-based organization.
Near the hillsides dotted with sheep and cattle and historic cemeteries, churches, farms and residences in the Belden and Imlertown areas of Bedford Township are bright yellow signs reading "No turbines in Bedford County."
Mirror photo by Wendy Zook
A historic stone schoolhouse being restored in Dutch Corner is one of the historical sites in Bedford County that could be placed at risk by wind turbines, a historical preservation organization said.
"This is definitely our first wind threat in Pennsylvania that we've identified [on the list]," she said, adding that there are properties facing other energy developments like mining and Marcellus Shale.
Iberdrola Renewables is in the planning stages of a 24-turbine project atop Evitts or Dunnings Mountain in northern Bedford County, with the Dutch Corner district on one side and New Enterprise and Salemville area on the other. Dutch Corner is in the running for a placement on the list of National Register of Historic Places through the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission - one of the eligibility requirements for at-risk candidates.
"We're talking about a proposed threat to the character of the place," Hammerstedt said. "It will change what makes that place special."
The turbines would not only cause physical changes to the ridge above the valley but could also pose a threat to the farming community's water and noise levels, critical to the agriculture vibe of the area, Hammerstedt added.
The Bedford County region was nominated by the Dutch Corner Historical Society and was one of about 25 nominations made this year.
Laura Jackson with the historical society said she hopes the site's at-risk announcement will raise awareness of the local community.
"It's an honor you don't want to have," Jackson said. "This is such a new type of industry, and there's so much unknown about even other potential impacts that the more we can raise awareness, maybe that will help with the protection."
Frank Antonson with the Dutch Corner History Group, which takes no official stand on the wind issue, said the matter is "complicated."
"It's gone back and forth," Antonson said. "PHMC decided the mountainside was part of the history of the area, to which I kind of agree because of that relationship to the woods that the farmers had here. All the people that live here locally are really interested in their history."
Both Jackson and Hammerstedt said it's not that the wind energy is a bad idea in general but that there needs to be a better location for wind projects.
"We know there are economic, energy advantages," Hammerstedt said. "But there are disadvantages if they're not located properly. There are other areas in Bedford County, other places, with a less negative impact. We need to explore that a little bit more."
"Our goal with this," she added, "is to really try to get people talking about it."
Other at-risk sites for 2010 include the East Stroudsburg railroad station and Plantation Plenty in Washington County.
For a complete list or more information on Preservation Pennsylvania, visit www.preservationpa.org.
Repeated messages left with Iberdrola representatives were not returned.
Mirror Staff Writer Wendy Zook is at 946-7520.