Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Tucked away north of downtown Har­risburg, just above the campus of Harris­burg Area Community College (HACC), is Wildwood Lake Sanctuary, a preserve of more than two hundred acres that traces its roots to the City Beautiful Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen­turies. As a child, J. Horace Mcfarland (1859-1948) spent countless hours at Wetzel’s Swamp, studying the unusual aquatic plant life and the marshy area’s flora and fauna. Later, as an articulate advocate of the City Beautiful Move­ment, McFarland and friend and ally Mira Lloyd Dock (1853-1945), a popu­lar spokeswoman for urban planning and beautification, were instrumental in including Wetzel’s Swamp in the master plan for the creation of parks in the state capital.

Formally opened in 1907, Wildwood Park was comprised of the remnants of the Pennsylvania Canal and Wetzel’s Swamp. Landscape architect Warren H. Manning (1860-1938), a student of Frederick Law Olmsted (who, with Cal­vert Vaux, laid out New York’s Central Park) designed the park in 1901. Sani­tary engineer James H. Fuertes (1863- 1932) designed a dam, an integral com­ponent of the park that provided flood protection for the city. The dam also raised the level of the swamp sufficiently to allow for aquatic plants, includ­ing mallows, water lilies, and reeds.

Manning pro­nounced “the opportunity for a greatcountry park at 1-Jarrisburg lies in the tract known as Wetzel’s Swamp, which includes about five hundred acres of swamp and dry land, framed in with wooded bluffs on the one side, and a line of fine old willows along the canal on the other. … It is rare, indeed, that a city can secure
a property having all the elements of a park landscape, its border-planting of fine trees, splendid individual specimens, and woodlands carpeted in spring with numerous wild flowers.”

Although a portion of the park was later taken for HACC’s campus and the area eventually girdled by the construction of Interstate 81 and Route 322, Wildwood Park – renamed Wildwood Lake Sanctuary – remains an oasis of natural beauty accessible to all. Migratory birds touch down on its placid waters, nesting in the reeds and cattails. The variety of plants – including the rare American lotus – and animals is remarkable and provides a natural classroom for students and visitors alike.

Wildwood Lake Sanctuary is operated by Dauphin Coun­ty Parks and Recreation and features nature trails, boardwalks, bird blinds, four separate habitats, and the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center, opened in 1999, which features exhibits, laboratories, and educational facilities. The sanctuary is open daily, from sunrise to sunset. The nature center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admis­sion to both the park and the center is free. Wildwood Lake Sanctuary is part of the Capital Area Greenbelt, a trail linking parks and open spaces in and surrounding Harrisburg.

For information about Wildwood Lake Sanctuary and the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center, visit the Dauphin County Parks and Recreation Web site at, or telephone (717) 221-0292. The Friends of Wildwood Lake Nature Center Web site features events at the sanctuary at To learn more about the Capital Area Greenbelt, visit on the Web or telephone (717) 921-4733.