Celebrating the environment with art and chocolate

Few communities of our size are fortunate enough to have a proactive, forward-thinking organization watching out for and protecting the natural environment as we are — fortunate indeed — in ClearWater Conservancy.

It is amazing what this organization has accomplished; one would never know it has only a few paid staff members.

It has achieved success because it is founded on the need to involve the community in the protection of its own cherished resources.

People of all stripes and sizes assist in a variety of ways — from volunteers helping on land-stewardship committees and assisting in monitoring water resources to those who simply choose to become a member to support the conservancy’s mission.

ClearWater’s accomplishments, for the benefit of us all, have grown exponentially in recent years. Last year, the conservancy’s 26th, was its most successful to date.

With the completion of three large agreements, the amount of land permanently protected by conservation easements nearly doubled to almost 1,200 acres. The total amount protected through easements, ownership and purchase by or transfer to state agencies is three times that: more than 4,000 acres.

The acquisition and transfer of Musser Gap is 2007’s special example of the leadership ClearWater has provided in involving the whole community and forming partners to permanently protect critically important lands.

One of ClearWater Conservancy’s founding board members, Jim McClure, sketched a memorable cartoon years ago showing that we are all in a big bathtub — the Spring Creek Watershed — together. This has never been more evident than today.

With the area continuing to grow, everyone needs to be involved in helping to protect what we value — and sometimes take for granted — in our natural environment.

Fortunately, ClearWater has perfected a fun way to get involved: the annual fundraiser, For the Love of Art and Chocolate.

Friday, from 7 to 10 p.m., the beautiful, donated, nature-inspired work of 50 artists and the delicious chocolate creations of 30 local eateries and chocolatiers will be available at the Penn Stater Conference Center.

For $25, ticketholders can eat as many chocolate delicacies as they dare, enjoy the music of Jazza-Ma-Phone, bid by silent auction on the art and possibly win one of 10 wonderful door prizes.

For those who cannot attend, tickets are on sale for two special raffles: a gorgeous Jennifer Kane painting of Musser Gap and a lovely Persian carpet from Desert Rug Co. Color images of the artwork, information about the raffles and lists of the food donors and event sponsors are on the conservancy’s Web site: www.clearwaterconservancy.org.

Please consider coming out Friday evening with your friends and neighbors to join all of us in celebrating the accomplishments of ClearWater and helping to support the continuing efforts of natural-resource protection in the heart of Pennsylvania.

Kelleann Foster, of State College, serves on the ClearWater Conservancy Board of Directors and is a co-chairwoman for the Love of Art and Chocolate event.