Turbines could adversely affect local tourism

To the editor:

To many locals, the thought of tourists visiting the Juniata River Valley seems unbelievable, maybe even laughable, but it’s true. While most of our visitors are friends and family members returning to visit residents, the natural beauty of Mifflin and Juniata counties attracts tourists from all over the world. The money these visitors spend in our restaurants, hotels and stores adds to our local economy’s bottom line. The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau has concerns about the possible construction of wind turbines on the top of Jacks Mountain and their effect on this area’s tourism trade. The following position statement has been approved by a majority vote of the board of directors. It’s been acknowledged that even though there are many aspects to this controversy, the statement presented here concerns only the effects on tourism that the proposed construction will have.

The natural beauty that surrounds us in the Juniata River Valley is a treasure that should be prized and guarded for future generations. The proposed placement of wind turbines on Jacks Mountain would forever mar the mountain topography and character of the Big Valley. The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau is concerned with the potential impact these turbines, their access roads, pad sites, etc. would make on our tourism industry.

A major attraction for tourists visiting Mifflin County is Big Valley. Home to a less commercialized community of Amish and Mennonite families, Big Valley attracts tourists interested in experiencing the quaint, natural and unspoiled surroundings that the Amish and their English neighbors have called home since the late 1700s. This same setting is a significant migratory path for birds of many species including eagles and hawks and these favorable wind currents and thermals attract gliders from all over the world to the Mifflin County Airport for annual competitions. Hang gliders also use the Belleville Mountain as a jumping off point to soar over the valley.

The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau expresses major concerns that the construction of these wind turbines would have a negative effect on all of these natural assets. Once the top of Jacks Mountain is leveled for construction, it will remain changed forever. The valley residents will experience “flicker shadows” and low frequency rumblings. Access road construction has the potential to disrupt aquifer springs and other fresh water sources. Scores of birds will be killed along their migratory paths – many more than in other non-migratory turbine areas. The bird watchers that perch on Jack’s Mountain spring through fall will no longer travel to our area and eat in our restaurants. The hang gliders will relocate to another area and the glider competitors and their audience will likewise spend their vacation dollars elsewhere.

The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau favors alternative energy development and is not opposed to the concept of wind power. However, we believe that construction of wind power turbines on Jacks and Stone Mountains is not appropriate for the reasons above. The permanent alteration of the mountain tops alone will forever change the character of the Big Valley and, coupled with the many negative impacts including severe wildlife mortality, forest desecration will inflict permanent economic damage to the businesses, visitors, and residents that benefit from these tourism activities.”

We recognize that there are many other issues concerning the proposed wind turbine construction and the potential effects they would have on our land. We encourage all residents to learn what they can. The next meeting of Save Jacks Mountain will be held on June 5 at 6:30 at the Mifflin Soaring Association Clubhouse, Mifflin County Airport.

The Juniata River Valley

Visitors Bureau

Board of Directors