Milford Beach rescued from closure

Pipeline company ponies up money needed to bridge gap left by federal sequester

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By Charles Reynolds

— Milford Beach will remain open this summer after all, after a campaign waged by community activists, business owners, and elected officials to stop the closure set off by across-the-board spending cuts known as the federal sequester.

John Donahue, superintendent of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, said he had to close Milford Beach to trim his budget. This ruffled many feathers in Pike County, as Milford Beach is a big draw for both residents and visitors alike during the summer. The closing would cost businesses in Milford and the surrounding area a lot of money in an already difficult economy.

Christopher Graham, of Confidential Bits, started a "Keep Milford Open" Facebook page and online petition to the White House.

Enter Harry Forbes, former Pike County commissioner and director of Gov. Corbett's Northeast Office in Scranton; and Matt Osterberg, Pike County commissioner. According to a source close to the situation, they asked Donahue how much money it would take to keep the tourist area open. Then they went about finding a corporate sponsor who could come up with the funds.

Next enter Kinder-Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which has been blasted by the public over tree-clearing for its Northeast Upgrade Project. The company recently announced its intention to donate $25,000 to the Delaware Valley School District for a welding project. By keeping Milford Beach open, they've found a way to promote their "good neighbor" image to more people.

According to a letter sent to Donahue on April 22, Allen Fore, director of Public Affairs of Kinder-Morgan, confirmed the company's donation of $41,000 to assist with the “2013 operational costs to keep the Delaware Water Gap's Milford Beach open for the calendar year 2013.” Fore called the beach an “important community asset.”

Gas companies and their supporters have been making the argument that the pipeline, and the natural gas industry it serves, will bring prosperity to the communities it touches. Losing masses of trees in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-approved clear-cutting earlier this year, while also losing a National Park Service beach later in the year, would not have felt like prosperity to local people.

Graham says he's worried about the deal officials made.

“My big concern is nothing comes from nothing,” he said in a phone interview. “Is this merely a political move, a tax write-off, or is there something more they expect from us?”

Graham and supporters of the beach were still planning to hold a meeting at the Columns museum on Thursday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. in the Foundation room.

Editor's note: The list of officials reportedly involved in the effort to open Milford Beach this summer has been changed from the original article and has been corrected here.

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