NAZARETH, Pa. - Old-growth forests, which means they've never been logged, destroyed or had to re-grow, represent only 1% of all eastern forests.
A national organization working to protect and conserve them has named a portion of the park as part of that network. The hemlocks, oaks, and tulip poplars at Henry's Woods in Jacobsburg Environmental Center State Park represent a look back in time.
“There is a family of roots that run through this park,” said manager Rob Neitz.
The 122-acre area known as Henry's Woods is now part of the Old-Growth Forest Network.
“It really recognizes our work in conserving critical habitat and keeping it open and accessible for people to enjoy,” Neitz said.
Named after its first stewards James Henry and family, an old-growth forest is one in its original state and offers a vital ecological role because of its unique structure.
“An old-growth forest, aside from being so beautiful, look where we are, are the best at cleaning the air. That includes taking carbon dioxide out of the air,” said Joan Maloof.
Maloof founded the Old-Growth Forest Network, a national organization that works with state, federal and private landowners to preserve ancient forests.
Henry's Woods is now 1 of 15 in Pennsylvania, but Maloof says only 5% remain in the west 1% in the east.
“If it's not the redwoods, people say it's not an old-growth forest. There are signs we look for, structure of tree, canopy, what the bark looks like,” she added.
At Henry's Woods, the 2-300-year-old trees border a nearly two-mile hike.
Maloof and DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn helped to celebrate the distinction.
“Signifies Henry's Woods has a special place even in our network of 121 state parks. Designated as an old-growth forest and we will work to keep old growth and protected,” Dunn said.
Secretary Dunn says an old-growth forest also gets special attention if it's being threatened, especially by disease or bugs.
Five more across the state will get the distinction by July.