Re-gnomed: Midstate community parks get new, tiny neighborhoods

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MILLERSTOWN, Pa. – Gnome-less no more.

A Perry County man is finding new venues for the tiny homes he builds after a state park evicted them.

It’s hard to tell what 16-month-old Joshua Heffner is thinking. His dad Jon, on the other hand, not so much.

He wears his feelings on his sleeve. “I love gnomes,” Heffner, of Reading, said Friday, showing off a tattoo of a gnome on his left bicep.

In Perry County for the weekend visiting in-laws, Heffner was right at home among the new gnome village in Millerstown Community Park.

“It’s nice to have something like that that people can come to the park and look at on top of just walking around,” Heffner said. Joshua cooed his agreement.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Clare Bachman, a Perry County native back home from college, as she walked through the park. “It’s really not normal, but.”

But here we are. How did we get here?

“I know that there was something about Little Buffalo, and there was a guy who made them for there, and they didn’t like them, and now they moved them to parks throughout Perry County,” Bachman recalled. “Correct?”

That’s basically right. The builder, Steve Hoke, had permission to install gnome homes in Little Buffalo state park last year.

Then the manager changed his mind. So Hoke re-gnomed them.

“After the emotional letdown of leaving Little Buffalo,” he said, “this is kind of rejuvenating for me.”

This week, Noye Park in Duncannon got its first new residents, too.

“I reached out to Duncannon Borough, talked to our parks and rec, they said green light, see what you can do,” said Lisa Landis, a community advocate who runs the This is Duncannon Facebook page.

“We’ve heard from Nigeria and the U.K.,” Hoke said, “and this is a little closer, so.”

He put in three to start. “Hopefully in the next two weeks I’ll have eight or ten more.”

Here comes the neighborhood.

“We brought a little bit of magic here to Duncannon,” Landis said.

“Now I just hope the community will adopt these,” Hoke said, “and enjoy them as much as I do.”

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