Salt Springs group in deal for nonsurface gas lease

The private nonprofit organization that manages Salt Springs State Park has signed a non-surface disturbance gas lease worth more than $750,000 for 137 acres that the conservation group owns adjacent to the Susquehanna County park.

Friends of Salt Springs Park Inc. sent a letter to 300 members on Friday notifying them of the lease deal with Talisman Energy USA, which was signed late last year.
The lease allows the company to drill horizontally under the 137-acre parcel from a pad on another property but precludes it from drilling, building roads, laying pipelines or otherwise disturbing the surface of the Friends’ land.
The gas company will not be allowed to drill on or under the 405-acre Salt Springs State Park, where the surface and mineral rights are owned by the state. It also will not have access to another 300-acre parcel the Friends own adjacent to the park that is under a conservation easement.
John Miskell, president of Friends of Salt Springs Park’s board of directors, said the 12-member board voted unanimously to sign the lease after it became clear that the organization had run out of options – short of selling land, laying off staff and eliminating education programs – for plugging a budget gap.
“The only thing I knew is that if we didn’t do it, I didn’t know how we were going to manage the park,” he said.
The Friends used $80,000 of the bonus payment to remove peeling lead paint from the Wheaton House at the park and repaint the building. It also plans to use $20,000 to repair the roof and water damage in the dairy barn on the property, according to the letter to members.
The remaining $650,000 will be used to establish an endowment for the park, and the interest from the endowment will help pay for the park’s administration, programs and maintenance. The organization will still rely on memberships, fundraisers and donations to operate the park, Miskell said.
The Friends of Salt Springs Park has managed, maintained and improved the park since 1994, and it is the only private organization that directly manages a Pennsylvania state park.
The nonprofit bought the 137-acre parcel involved in the gas lease in 2006 for $180,000, half of which was paid for by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
DCNR agreed to the lease terms of the Friends’ deal with Talisman and drafted additional legal language, including a clause that requires the company to restore the surface at well sites on adjacent land used to tap the Friends’ gas, Miskell said.

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