FTTU Youth Group Cancelled
Inside the Outdoors, February 12,
2016

Latrobe-based Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited recently announced that after 11 years, the officers have decided not to have a youth group in 2016.

The decision came about as a result of several reasons one of which included a shortage of volunteers to oversee the program.

“Originally, Ligonier resident and long-time member Drew Banas founded the Youth Fly Fishing and Conservation Group in 2005 and was director 9 of the 11 years. It was his vision to introduce the area’s youth to fly fishing,” stated Scott Minster, secretary, “educate them on the importance of cold water conservation, and to encourage kids to enjoy the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle.”

Minster who also is the organization’s newsletter editor, ‘The Trails,’ and website designer stated on the Internet, “The Youth group has been one of the chapter’s biggest success stories with more than 150 boys and girls going through the program. Some enjoyed it so much that they returned for a second year!”

Banas, who was awarded the Silver Trout Award at FTTU’s November 2015 meeting, was given a certificate in appreciation of his service to the local TU organization, set the curriculum, scheduled the meetings and outings and worked with parents and volunteer helpers. He ordered supplies, acquired a grant and arranged for electro-fishing surveys and macro studies with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Loyalhanna Watershed Association, Minster stated.

The second reason for cancelling the youth group is the new amendments to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. “Although the new amendments provide important protection for children, it places a lot more responsibility on those who work with kids.” Continuing, he stated, “The problem is, nobody knows exactly what the law means for TU members. It would require two to three law enforcement clearances for our mentors, training and record keeping and reporting responsibilities.”

Speaking on behalf of the other officers, Minster noted, “Until TU’s lawyers figure it out, we have decided to err on the side of caution and suspend the program. Hopefully, when the legal situation is clarified and some individual come forward to reorganize and run the program, the youth group can start up again.”

Minster concluded by stating that “It has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience for all of us who have served as mentors and helpers and it will be greatly missed.”

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We who have been affiliated with FTTU over the many years of its existence here in the tourist community of Latrobe were deeply saddened to learn recently of the death of one of its outstanding leaders and contributing members.

Quoting Minster from the website, “Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited pays tribute at the passing of our charter member and emeritus director C. Russell “Russ” Mason on Saturday, January 16th in Greensburg, PA. Russ was named by author Mike Klimkos in his book, Trout Unlimited and the Environmental Movement in Pennsylvania as one of ‘The Lions; one of the people that made Trout Unlimited the most powerful voice for Coldwater conservation in Pennsylvania.’”

Former charter member and past president Frank Felbaum described Russ as “…dedicated, inspired, committed, dependable, organizer, leader, educator and a man of integrity who loved the natural world.”

Russ Mason was among the first trout anglers in Pennsylvania to ‘get’ the concept of Trout Unlimited, that “if we take care of our trout streams, our trout fishing will take care of itself.”

“Speaking up for our environment took guts in 1963,” stated Minster, “when Russ joined the new Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited, now the Penn’s Woods West Chapter in Pittsburgh. Lobbyists, politicians and sadly too many sportsmen’s groups paid more attention to the ‘Red Scare’ than to our rivers catching on fire, sickened residents of Love Canal, birth defects from Thalidomide, Bald Eagles disappearing, and acid rain and mine drainage reducing trout fishing to catching stocked trout from polluted waters.”

In addition, Mason helped build a new TU chapter in Cambria County, the Mountain Laurel Chapter, and in 1973 in Westmoreland County, the Forbes Trail Chapter.

A Lifetime Conservation Award recipient in 2011, Mason loved to read. One of his favorite all time classics was ‘A Modern Dry Fly Code, authored by Vince Marinaro, published in 1950. What Mason took away from this book was, “There is more to trout fishing than catching trout. If an angler doesn’t understand why he did or didn’t catch a trout, if he doesn’t work to understand trout bugs and behavior, then the fun soon passes and the angler never truly finds the sport rewarding.”

In addition to decades of long service for the Forbes Trail Chapter projects and programs, Russ served on the board of directors faithfully as long as humanly possible. “When Russ’s health took a turn for the worse in 2013, the chapter created the special role, Director Emeritus, for him, and for us to keep the environmental integrity a force in chapter leadership. To honor his skill as a fly fisher, in 2014, the chapter established the C. Russell Mason Fly Fisher of the Year Award.

Russell, I speak for the whole membership. We are going to miss you!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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