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

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