Monday, April 29, 2013

A Startling Reminder

Pennypack Creek along the Webb Walk in the Pennypack Preserve
The Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust has been around for 43 years now and its natural area has grown from the original 26 acres into the 810-acre preserve we enjoy today.  The Trust's staff and volunteers have put incalculable time and resources into protecting and restoring the land.  Occasionally, we should step back and look at all the great things the Trust has done to protect Pennypack Creek and its tributaries because, with so much beauty around, it's easy to take the Trust's efforts for granted.

Just upstream of the Pennypack Preserve is an area that serves as a reminder of what the preserve could become if the Trust ceased to exist.  Nestled in a hidden, largely forgotten hollow where the Pennsylvania Turnpike, SEPTA's Warminster regional rail line, and Pennypack Creek converge are 15 acres of neglected creek floodplain and early-successional forest.  Most people don't know of the existence of this place.  Two privately-owned bridges span the creek, but the bridges are off-limits to the public.  Because of the site's remoteness, it has become a "playground" for local youth who have left a permanent mark on the landscape.  The area is littered with the remains of weekend parties, paintball supplies, spray paint cans, miscellaneous trash from floods, the remains of campsites, and even a "zip" line with an accompanying 20-foot tower.
The derelict, hopeless nature of the site is depressing.  One can barely find a spot that hasn't been violated by some piece of trash or outright destruction.  The woods are crisscrossed by ATV trails interrupted by iron-stained puddles.  The landscape actually is quite colorful - thanks to the graffiti covering every possible vertical surface.  Here, even Pennypack Creek looks foul - a shadow of the beauty we experience within the boundaries of the preserve.
The owner or owners of the property should feel embarrassed and ashamed that this area has been allowed to deteriorate so badly.  This place serves as a reminder of why Pennypack employees and volunteers labor so diligently to protect the Trust's holdings.  Knowing that places like this exist within a few minutes of the preserve reminds us that we are all responsible for maintaining the beauty of the Pennypack Preserve.

With Earth Day barely behind us, let's remember to always leave a place better than we found it.  That applies to public places in the Pennypack watershed as well as the to Pennypack Preserve.  Pennypack members deserve special thanks for supporting the 810 beautiful acres we are so privileged to protect!

Submitted by
Gary Snyder, Stewardship Assistant

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Earth Day Tree Planting

Stewardship Assistant Chris Dartley planting a tree aided by Upper Moreland 6th-graders
The Upper Moreland School District has committed to bringing all students from 6th- through 9th-grades to the Pennypack Preserve each year for an environmental education field day.  On Earth Day this year (Monday, April 22), about 125 6th-graders (half of the 6th-graderes in the district) arrived for a morning full of environmental activities.  The students broke into four groups, and each group headed for a different activity station.  Throughout the morning, at 45 minute intervals, the students switched stations so that all students got a chance to rotate through all four activities: tree planting, invasive plant control, stream ecology, and searching for salamanders

Smaller trees need require smaller holes - always a consideration with 6th-graders
The tree planting occurred near our office.  Last winter, the staff and volunteers spent many hours clearing invasive plants from a hopelessly weedy and vine-infested thicket in preparation for planting this spring with the students. 

Chris positioning a deer-proofing cage while a student readies a stake
The students love getting out of the classroom - especially in the spring when the weather starts to improve.  I'm sure the teachers like the change, too.

At any one time, there were a dozen students planting trees
The second half of the 6th-graders came to the preserve on Tuesday and repeated the activities of the previous day.  Between the two groups, Stewardship Assistant Chris Dartley reported that the students, teachers, and chaperones had planted over 100 trees.

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Monday, April 15, 2013

43rd Annual Creek Cleanup

Trash collected by Viridian Energy volunteers
The Pennypack Trust held its annual creek cleanup along Pennypack Creek and several tributary streams last Saturday.  Despite showers on Friday, the streams were not particularly high on Saturday, and the day was sunny and temperatures were perfect - in the low 60s.

With over 100 individuals from Scouts, church groups, and companies volunteering at this event, we needed to spread the workforce over the landscape.  I took a group to Upper Moreland Township's Terwood Park where Round Meadow Run, a tributary draining downtown Willow Grove, originates.  Because of the commercial activity in this stream's headwaters, we can always count on collecting plenty of trash on the floodplain.

Round Meadow Run, the tributary where I worked,  near its mouth
I had volunteers from Viridian Energy, an electric utility supplier in the region, and from Planet Aid, a non-profit organization that re-purposes and distributes donated clothing and housewares.

Viridian Energy volunteers
Because we have not had a major flood since August 2011 when Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee roared through the valley (2012's Hurricane Sandy caused tremendous wind damage but did not produce much rain), there was not an inordinate amount of trash to collect.  Floods wash debris out of the watershed and deposit it on the floodplain, but this year we mostly collected routine stuff, especially plastic bottles and Styrofoam.

Round Meadow Run (foreground) joining Pennypack Creek (right)
Pennypack Creek is too large to ford easily, so volunteers from Planet Aid used a downed tree to access the opposite bank
Heading back for lunch
The three Planet Aid volunteers; it's not apparent in the image, but Dave (center) had fallen in the creek
Lavonne Cain (left), Pennypack's marketing assistant, and Mary Robertson distributed t-shirts
Back at the Visitor Center, we treated the volunteers to lunch provided by Whole Foods Market in Jenkintown, and we gave each volunteer a commemorative t-shirt.

Lunch in the picnic area
The creek cleanup, Pennypack's biggest event of the year, is hectic and chaotic, but it's also fun and satisfying.  Participants always feel good about being able to do something to help the environment.

The Pennypack Trust extends special thanks to our partner in this annual event, Upper Moreland Township, which collects and disposes of much of the trash gathered by our volunteers.

This year's cleanup was also sponsored by Susquehanna Bank, Giroud Tree and Lawn and MLCS Woodworking.

The following local businesses also provided support for the event: Bickel & Scena

General Contractors; BLue – A hair studio; Carr and Duff, Inc.; DeMarco Land Clearing & Tree Service; Rems Automotive; Star Lawn Mower; The Fredericks Company; and Vaporfoxxe.

Submitted by David Robertson, Executive Director