Local non-profit Cameron County Outdoor Youth Activities Inc. has received a large land donation from the descendants of the H.W. Zimmer Family this summer.
The transfer consists of 5 parcels totaling 453 acres in Shippen Township, just north-west of Emporium, PA. The property was originally purchased by H. Ward Zimmer in the 1940s as part of a proposed housing development and was passed down to his descendants over the following decades. First to his wife Ethel and their two children, Henry Zimmer, Jr. and Kathryn Zimmer Jennings, then to his 5 grandchildren: Ward Zimmer, Andy Zimmer, Jill Zimmer Cunningham, Karen Jennings, and Leigha Jennings Gordillo. Aside from the occasional timber harvest, the majority of the property has remained in a natural and untouched condition for over 70 years. Now, the five grandchildren have come together to donate the parcels to CCOYA.
When the suggestion came up to donate the property to CCOYA, the Zimmer family loved the idea of using the land to support outdoor education. “Participation in similar youth organizations as a child is what led me to a career in stream restoration, so I definitely appreciate the value of CCOYA’s mission to promote stewardship of the natural world,” said Karen Jennings.
Through the decades, one of the parcels has been leased by the family at no cost to the non-profit Cameron County Fair for use as the fairgrounds. President Ron Andrews says that CCOYA intends to continue that partnership. “The Cameron County Fair is a tradition in this community, and we want to continue that. We plan to partner with the Cameron County Fair Association as they make improvements to the fairground’s buildings and site so that it can be used for our other youth programs as well.” said Mr. Andrews.
The remaining forested parcels are intended to be used primarily for outdoor education, passive recreation, and conservation. Leigha Gordillo explained, “The beauty and peacefulness of the surrounding mountains are part of what makes Emporium such a special place. We wanted to make sure that our family’s legacy would contribute to that.”
The Zimmer cousins intend to place a sign on the property naming it the Joseph Cunningham Natural Area as a memorial to Jill Cunningham’s late husband. She said, “Joe loved nothing more than spending time outdoors. He spent many days fly fishing on the Driftwood Branch with our Lab right beside him. We felt that it would be a wonderful way to honor his memory.”
Founded in 2011, CCOYA is a 501c3 charitable organization located in Emporium, Pennsylvania. CCOYA’s mission is to provide youth the opportunity and education to become aware of and comfortable with an outdoor lifestyle, focusing on the benefits this will provide to their everyday lives and personal growth. CCOYA is confident that these opportunities will inspire our youth to carry on through support of our program and others like it as they grow to become productive adults, leaders in our communities and good stewards of our outdoor world. The property will give youth more opportunities to discover new aspects of outdoor education. CCOYA will be able to diversify the programs to have more in-depth learning opportunities that were not previously possible.