Our roots date back to 1970 when a single chapter served the needs of southcentral PA TU members. At that time, Cumberland Valley TU, which included Dauphin & Lebanon counties, was focused mainly on the LeTort and other limestone streams west of the Susquehanna River.
But problems started brewing for an east shore freestone stream when the PA Game Commission announced plans in 1966 to swap 1,700 acres of recently acquired Stony Valley property with PA Power & Light Company. PP&L in return agreed to donate 5500 acres in Clark’s Valley to the Game Commission. State and local officials heralded the swap as an act of PP&L’s generosity in providing land which was “more accessible” to local sportsmen.
A handful of anglers – lead by Dr. John A. “Doc” Fritchey, Jr. – viewed this “act of generosity” in a very different light, however. Doc — who had been fishing Stony Creek since the mid-1930s and had fallen in love with the stream — had previously attempted to purchase 1,000 of the 1,700 acres then owned by a coal mining company. It was not until after the subsequent purchase of the entire tract by the Game Commission and transfer of ownership to PP&L that the power company’s plans came to light; plans to build a major hydroelectric facility in Stony Valley.
Doc’s attempts to convince various state, local and even national officials to put a halt to the PP&L project fell on deaf ears. In 1970, undaunted by these rejections and fired up for the major battle ahead, Doc contacted the then-infant TU Organization to enlist support. TU’s official response was that “it was too late to do anything” about the project. But Doc persisted, and after gathering (with some difficulty) a few dozen members, successfully convinced TU to sanction the formation of the Dauphin Chapter in 1971.
With the help of Bill Beck, who joined the Dauphin Chapter in 1973, and at the urging of TU attorneys, the Stony Valley Coalition was formed. By early 1974 more than 50 conservation organizations, both local and regional, had joined the battle. During the next 6 years, overcoming major battles and gathering support from state agencies and legislators, the Coalition was successful in having Stony Creek designated as part of the Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers System. After this victory, PP&L finally gave up the battle and under the terms of their original agreement the 1,700 acres of Stony Valley property reverted back to the Game Commission.
Doc expressed mixed emotions over winning the battle, feeling that the publicity would surely ruin forever the pristine wilderness of his cherished Stony Valley. But at the end of the fight, he realized that this was a relatively small price to pay for saving this stream for future generations to enjoy. It is for this selflessness, dedication and just plain hard work that the original Dauphin Chapter was renamed in Doc’s honor.