A year ago, Terry McGrail lived at Hilltop Mobile Home Park. She received a letter in September 2012 informing her that the park would be closing and that she would need to find a new lot for her home and vacate the park by February 28, 2013.
“There is nothing more surreal than watching your home drive down the road in front of you,” said McGrail, now a resident of the Woodsdale Mobile Home Park.
In the past 19 months, three mobile home parks have been closed, and, according to McGrail, about 250 State College families have been forced to relocate. As land here becomes more valuable to developers for commercial shopping centers and student housing, landowners are turning away from less profitable land uses. Mobile home parks are one of these uses. Hilltop was closed in February 2013, and the Penn State Mobile Home Park was closed by July . Now, residents of the Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park have been given until October of 2014 to find a new place to live. Only two mobile home parks remain in State College, and neither has any open lots left.
McGrail was one of the lucky few who were able to stay in State College after Hilltop was closed. She fought hard for the right to move into Woodsdale, and she continues to fight for the right to remain there. She and her new neighbors are in the process of forming a residents’ association that will aim to buy the land beneath their homes.
The residents of Franklin Manor may not be as fortunate as McGrail. There are no more open lots for their homes in State College, and transporting a mobile home is not only costly but difficult. According to McGrail, the homes at Franklin Manor are so old that they won’t likely survive the journey to a new park. Although they face the struggle of starting anew, the residents of Franklin Manor are not without help. The Woodsdale community has begun banding together in support of Franklin Manor and is working to create an informational brochure and plan a community yard sale to assist the families with their moving costs.
Despite everything that she and her neighbors have been through, McGrail never fails to emphasize the positive changes that have come out of it: the bonds her community formed, the peace she’s found in her new location and, most importantly, the strength that she and her neighbors have found within. “There’s so much good that has come out of this, not least of which is realizing that my voice is valid, that the voices of each of us here are valid voices, that we’re important parts of this community.”
About the Contributors
Senior / Visual Journalism / Anthropology
Abigail Johnson is a Penn State senior majoring in visual journalism and anthropology. She is currently working as a communications intern for Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. In this position she produces stories and outreach materials highlighting research being done at Penn State. Abigail has studied abroad in both Australia and South Africa, focusing primarily upon human-environment interactions in protected areas. After she graduates in May 2014, she hopes to pursue a career in digital storytelling.