Lehigh Gap Nature Center

On the Kittatinny Ridge, by the Lehigh River, D&L and Appalachian Trails…LGNC is the only Superfund site in the country to be restored to an environmental education center.
The Lehigh Gap Nature Center is a member-supported 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization located in Lehigh Gap, PA, at the foot of the Kittatinny Ridge. Our mission is to protect the wildlife and enhance the habitats of our Refuge and the neighboring Kittatinny Ridge. We promote conservation in the Lehigh River Watershed through education, research, and outdoor recreation for the benefit of present and future generations. The nature center includes the Osprey House, our “green” building used for indoor instruction and gatherings, and a 756-acre wildlife refuge. The refuge features approximately 400 acres of restored Superfund site in addition to other unaffected habitats, including ponds, bottomland wetlands, a 2.5 mile riparian zone, forested slopes, cliffs, and savanna at the higher elevations.
Our Mission
The mission of Lehigh Gap Nature Center is to protect the wildlife and enhance the habitats of our Refuge, the neighboring Kittatinny Ridge, and the Lehigh River Watershed through conservation, education, research, and outdoor recreation to improve the quality of life of present and future generations.
We envision a future in which communities and individuals achieve, sustain, and support healthy and connected ecosystems at Lehigh Gap, on the Kittatinny Ridge, and throughout the Lehigh River Watershed. This vision remains one of hope: we inspire action by restoring ecological function and beauty where it has been damaged and protecting those places that remain healthy. We envision a growing inclusive community of residents who are deeply connected to nature and support conservation in succeeding generations.
History of LGNC
Lehigh Gap Nature Center Osprey House 2002  oct-2002sm  2006-august



Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC) was born out of the efforts of a small group of naturalists who recognized the value and potential of the area. Perhaps the organization’s earliest origins can be traced to the late Grant White, who was quoted in a 1960s-era newspaper article as saying there ought to be a nature center in the Lehigh Gap. Don Heintzleman, through his hawkwatching efforts at Bake Oven Knob (which also dates back to the ’60s), built a community concerned about wildlife and founded the Wildlife Information Center (WIC).

The WIC is the official 501(c)3 nonprofit incorporation under which LGNC still does business today. In the mid-’90s, the WIC had an office in downtown Slatington, but sought a property upon which they could build an environmental education center. An old farm house in the Lehigh Gap was a wonderful prospect, given its proximity to the Lehigh River and Kittatinny Ridge and with a pond on site. Dan Kunkle (who at that time was a board member) recalls that upon visiting the site to inquire if the property might some day be for sale, the owners acted as if the WIC’s arrival was divine providence; the people had just listed their home for sale on the internet. While touring the grounds, the group sighted an osprey overhead, which served as the inspiration for the name the house bears today – the Osprey House.

The Osprey House is the headquarters for the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and provides crucial indoor facilities to support conservation, research and education activities on our adjacent 756-acre property, the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge. Once the Osprey House was acquired, the Refuge was purchased in two parcels (we later acquired the arboretum site). Early on, LGNC established a tradition of working through partnerships by partnering with organizations like the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and DCNR, whose guidance and funding made the purchase of our property possible. Approximately 400 acres of our property falls within the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund Site and was heavily contaminated with toxic metals, (lead, cadmium and zinc) between 1898-1980, during the period of operation of the New Jersey Zinc Company in Palmerton, PA.

We followed the advice of plant scientist John Dickerson and former D&L Trail Manager Bill Mineo and planted warm season native grasses to remediate the site and thereby stabilize the metals in the soil and also prevent them from re-entering the food chain at rates which would harm wildlife. We re-vegetated the barren parts of our land, created a trail system, and developed an environmental education and research program that continues today. Our restoration is ongoing as we practice adaptive management, including prescribed fires in our repertoire of conservation tools as we strive to exclude invasives and keep the metals from re-entering the ecosystem and food chain at toxic levels. To quote the Hommer Foundation’s Peter Kern, LGNC is truly an environmental miracle and an educational jewel.

The Osprey House - Our Green Building

In 2013, Lehigh Gap Nature Center received a “Sustainability Award” from the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.


Green Features of the Osprey House, our Visitor and Education Center

Super-insulated walls and ceilings

  • -Insulated concrete forms for basement walls (R30)
  • -2” x 8” construction with 1” spray foam + 6.5” spray cellulose in walls
  • -Ceilings with 1” spray foam,15+” of spray cellulose
  • -Walls ~ R35 and ceilings ~R55

Geothermal Heat Pump HVAC

  • -Zoned so each room on each level has thermostat
  • -Programmable thermostats
  • -D-Superheater connects heat pump to water heater

 High efficiency lighting

  • -Fluorescent bulbs where possible
  • -Track lighting using CFLs
  • -Exhibit lighting with LED bulbs
  • -Occupancy sensors so lights are not left on accidentally

State of the art Stream Discharge Sewage Treatment system

  • -Includes aeration tanks
  • -75% of effluent from filtration tank re-circulates through system
  • -Potable water discharged into river

Green construction materials

  • -Hardy board siding (composite made from cement and waste products)
  • -Spray cellulose insulation is recycled newspaper
  • -Low and no VOC paints
  • -Slate from local quarry on lobby floor
  • -Carpeting with 100% recycled backing and 35% recycled fiber
  • -Dolomite tile in library
  • -Trex composite decking made from wood waste
  • -On-site boulders used in landscaping and driveway retaining wall
  • -Habitat gardens with 100% native plants

Reuse of existing building

  • -The addition is designed to allow integration of old building into new
  • -Old building was gutted and made energy efficient

High Efficiency air-to-air heat pump in old building

Walls framed out internally to allow for addition of 3.5” fiberglass batts as additional insulation

1” foam sheeting added to ceilings to improve insulation

Storm water management

  • -All roads and garden areas are pervious surfaces
  • -Roof water collected in pond to maintain this educational feature of our landscaping
  • -Demonstration living roof on old springhouse

CollidEscape on windows to prevent bird strikes.

We believe concerned people working together can make a difference.
We believe that knowledge and understanding build compassion.
We believe in the wisdom of the citizen scientist.
We believe in the power of the citizen activist.

Join us as we improve our corner of the Earth.

LGNC Staff and Volunteers

The administration of LGNC is a mix of volunteer and paid staff members including:

Dan Kunkle

Dan Kunkle

Executive Director

Education and honors: B.S. Secondary Ed, Biology, Kutztown University; M.S. Biology, Kutztown University; Together Green Fellow (2010); Rider Pool Fellow (2015-16); honorary Doctorate awarded by Muhlenberg College (2016).

Dan Kunkle was a high school science teacher for nearly 30 years until leaving his position to dedicate his time to the creation of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. Since 2003, Dan has worked tirelessly to restore the land at Lehigh Gap, educate children and adults about nature and build a diverse community of support for conservation. Contact Dan at danlgnc@ptd.net

Donna Gasser

Donna Gasser

Membership Coordinator

Education: B.Ed. Health and Physical Education, Montclair State University.

Donna left teaching in 1975 to raise three children in Ocean Township, NJ with her late husband Joe. During that time she also worked and volunteered in scouting, teaching swimming and water aerobics and running activities at a campground. In addition to the membership coordinator’s job, Donna has volunteered in the garden, at the front desk and with the education program. She has also helped produce quilts for the LGNC raffle and run many of our booths at local events.

Chad Schwartz

Chad Schwartz

Director of Science and Education

Education: B.S. Environmental Science and Sustainability Studies, Muhlenberg College.

Chad Schwartz has spent his life studying and exploring the natural world, and enjoys sharing his passion with others through his work as an educator at LGNC. In his free time, Chad can often be found outdoors birding, hiking, and fishing, or at home painting PA Dutch hex signs and researching genealogy. He is also the Youth Coordinator of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society. You can contact Chad at chad.schwartz@lgnc.org
Kate Brandes

Kate Brandes

Conservation Landscaping Program Manager

Education: B.S. Geology, Penn State; M.S. Geology, North Carolina State.

Kate Brandes has worked as a geologist and environmental scientist for over twenty years in public and private sectors. She currently manages the Landscaping for Communities and Wildlife Program at Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The program focuses on improving local ecology using native plants and sustainable landscaping practices in small public and residential gardens. Contact Kate at kate@lgnc.org

Brian Birchak

Brian Birchak

Director of Communications

Education: AA Graphic Design; Kutztown University, Anthropology; Moravian College, Biology; Muhlenberg College, Biology
Brian Birchak is a life long outdoors enthusiast with a background in biology, education and graphic design.  He also has a background in web design and IT and it shows in his hobby of building computers. Brian has enjoyed being a part of LGNC for years and is thrilled to be a part of the education team. When he’s not out playing on the mountain with insects and plants you can find him relaxing with his banjo or playing with his computers. You can contact Brian at: brian.birchak@lgnc.org

Color of Nature Program Leaders

Color of Nature Program Leaders

Darien Rivera, Antonio Martinez, Jose Reyes, Anais Martinez, and Ariel Bonilla

LGNC Board of Directors and Board of Advisors

Anita Collins, Ph.D.

Anita Collins, Ph.D.


Profession: Honey Bee geneticist, USDA (retired);
Prof. of Entomology, Penn State University

George Beam, P.E.

George Beam, P.E.

Board Member

Profession: Electrical Engineer
PPL Corporation, Allentown, PA

Nelson Markley, Ph.D.

Nelson Markley, Ph.D.

Board Member

Profession: Academic Dean (retired)
Lehigh University

Diane Husic, Ph.D.

Diane Husic, Ph.D.

Vice President

Profession: Prof. of Biology; Dean, School of Natural and Health Sciences
Moravian College

Frederic “Fritz” H. Brock

Frederic “Fritz” H. Brock

Board Member

Profession: Director (retired)
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission

Janet Maurer

Janet Maurer

Board Member

Profession: Biology Teacher, Cumberland Valley School District (retired)
Ron Kline, Ph.D.

Ron Kline, Ph.D.


Profession: Psychologist
Director of Counseling Services
Moravian College

Barb Egerton

Barb Egerton

Board Member

Profession: Elementary Teacher (retired)
Northampton Area School District

Robert E. Hoopes, P.E.

Robert E. Hoopes, P.E.


Profession: Management Corporate Services
PPL Corporation, Allentown, PA

Marilyn Jordan, Ph.D.

Marilyn Jordan, Ph.D.

Board Member

Profession: Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy
of New York, (retired)

Board of Advisors

Keith L. Bildstein, Ph.D.
Profession: Director of Conservation
Science, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary,
Kempton, PA

John Dickerson
Profession: Plant scientist

Holly A. Heintzelman, Esq.
Profession: Private attorney

Roland Kushner, Ph.D.
Profession: Professor of Business
Muhlenberg College,
Allentown, PA

Christian F. Martin IV
Profession: Chairman and CEO
Martin Guitar

Donald A. Molde, M.D.
Profession: Physician, Retired

Carl Oplinger, Ph.D.
Profession: Professor Emeritus of Biology
Muhlenberg College,
Allentown, PA

Dan Poresky
Profession: Founder/Owner (retired)
Dan’s Camera City

David Shaffer
Profession: co-CEO
Just Born Candy

Sue Tantsits
Profession: Co-owner Edge of the Woods
Native Plant Nursery

Maria Tranguch
Profession: Professional Planner, Arborist


Committees provide guidance and recommendations to the Board of Directors and are comprised of Board members and other LGNC members. The Executive Director and Board President are ex officio members of all committees.

Finance Committee

Nelson Markley, Chair
George Beam
Bob Hoopes
Ron Kline
Janet Maurer

Personnel Committee

Anita Collins, Chair
Fritz Brock
Bill Mineo

Research Committee

Diane Husic, Chair
Anita Collins
Marilyn Jordan
Bill Mineo

Development Committee

Ed Newcomb, Chair
George Beam

Communication Committee

Bonnie Pancoast
Barb Egerton
Chad Schwartz
Dave Husic
Brian Birchak
Daniel Ahrens

Any member with skills in one of the above areas who wishes to serve on a committee should contact
the Executive Director (danlgnc@ptd.net) or President (frozenbeedoc@verizon.net).

Lehigh Gap Nature Center Partners and Sponsors