In support of the Schuylkill Center
Recently I have read three letters to the editor of the Chestnut Hill Local strongly criticizing the direction and leadership of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. I would like to offer a differing opinion.
While I am on the board of the center and chairman of three committees, I am also an immediate neighbor (for the last 25 years). Please understand that I am now speaking for myself and not as a representative of the center.The letters questioned the management style and called for the resignation of the director.
A few months ago Dennis Burton, former head of the Land Restoration Department and presently executive director of the center, sent a letter to all members of the center, communicating his resignation at the end of this month. Dennis has been a respected leader. Among his many accomplishment-increasing the educational opportunities, including the Green Woods Charter School, introducing the environmental art and agriculture programs, fostering native plants propagation and sales, the Penn’s native acre, and installing a green roof, solar panel array, cisterns, and a native planted fire pond.Under his leadership SCEE has been involved in pioneering environmental work.
The center has had the good fortune to partner with the Urban Girls Farmers/CSA for the last couple of years. The “girls” provide delicious organic produce/eggs on two acres of the NE corner of the center.
The center has also hosted The Philly Compost program on two acres next to the SCEE Farm, which will also be a model of sustainability. Philly Compost has a long record of reducing the waste stream, increasing the land fertility in the region, and educating the public about the importance of composting.
The Schuylkill Center is an amazing piece of open space in the city, but as the saying goes, “We’re more than a walk in the woods.” Please learn more about the exciting new directions of the center, and for heavens sake, become a member of the center.
I recently attended a meeting in Whitemarsh Township to discuss problems its codes employees were encountering enforcing the township’s current weed ordinance. The township’s ordinance is one I helped to change while on the Environmental Advisory Board. The change is environmentally progressive and simple in that the definition of weed is any non-native plant.
Native plants are critically necessary as we have lost so much land to development. Our urban and suburban properties can provide important linkages and habitat to species struggling to find the food they require. The beauty of the existing ordinance is that it is easily enforceable. All it requires is knowing what is native.
Codes employees and other township representatives discussed wanting to place the burden on property owners to prove their plantings are native. They have received many complaints about properties converted to naturalized meadows from neighbors used to lawns. Employees suggested requiring property owners wishing to have a meadow installation instead of lawn to obtain and pay for a permit.
This is an extremely backward and irresponsible approach, knowing what we now know about the importance of native plants to support species suffering severe declines. Lawns do little more than asphalt to absorb stormwater, while meadows allow great infiltration with their deep root structures adapted to local conditions. Given today’s stormwater runoff, pollution of our waterways from fertilizer and water usage to maintain lawns, a more proactive approach would be to tax lawns and reward those with native meadows.
I hope Whitemarsh Township will enforce the existing weed ordinance as written and take those offering to teach native versus non-native vegetation up on their offers. I hope other municipalities will rewrite their ordinances to allow for native growth such as meadows. Hopefully the paradigm in landscaping will shift to one much more healthy and cost effective for wildlife and people.
At the onset, I must say I am personally disgusted to have to make a political point about people’s death. Regarding Mr. Geller’s letter about Sept. 11, (Letters, Sept. 2) it is liberal cliché to give lip service to American victims and then to excoriate some action of Americans regardless of the situation.
This pattern of speech happens with such regularity that it is obvious that these people hate America and do not adequately honor American victims. To have any credibility at all, Mr. Geller should mourn the loss of German Nazis killed by Americans or even Palestinian school children killed by Israelis.
Hunters need to clean up their act
City officials want park users to be safe. And so, various advisories have been posted in Wissahickon Valley Park regarding personal safety and the protection of one’s possessions. One area never addressed at a public safety meeting convened by park officials was archery deer hunting.
The Final Deer Report following an evaluation of the deer begun in 1994 suggested that Friends of the Wissahickon work to facilitate archery hunting around the park. The upcoming archery season begins on Sept. 18 and runs through Jan. 2011.
Deer hunters have been told that in order to improve upon their image, they need to “clean up their act.” This purely recreational pursuit continues to thrive on the questionable premise that forest regeneration will be enabled. Deer ecology is very complex and poorly understood. And as always, the devil is in the details.
It came out at a symposium held in Morristown, N.J., that even if every deer were killed, it would not bring back the native species of plants. An American Forests study revealed that deer can actually help suppress the spread of some introduced plant species. And, one landowner fenced the deer out only to have the aggressive pin cherry completely take over. Previously, deer browsing had helped control it. A Connecticut study showed that 25 different desirable plant species were germinated from deer pellets.
Killing deer serves to shatter the deer’s familial units, thereby causing instability, aberrant behavior, greater vulnerability, altered reproductive patterns, weakened gene pool and so on, not to mention being vicious, indefensible and ineffective.
Allen T. Rutberg, Ph.D., of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and very knowledgeable in urban deer ecology and management, reminds us, “Just because deer are being killed doesn’t mean that deer are being controlled.”
Cat rescue efforts going well
To date, with the trapping assistance of Forgotten Cats, I would like to inform your readers that we have rescued 34 cats and kittens. Some of these rescues are in foster homes; many are in my home. I am desperate to find them permanent homes as well as foster homes. Barn homes will prevent me from having to return any more feral cats to the streets.
I hope to continue trapping to get these cats sterilized, and to educate the residents about the importance of spay/neutering. Forgotten Cats is considering a day in which they will sterilize residents’ cats at a reduced rate. They will pick the cats up, sterilize them, recover them and return them to their owners. In addition to the extreme poverty that affects these neighborhoods, many residents do not own cars to take their animals to vets, and most rescuers won’t set foot in these dangerous neighborhoods.
Some friends have offered to organize fundraisers and to help me get these rescue cats’ photos on the Internet (something at which I am not proficient). The Chestnut Hill Local has been terrific in helping me publicize this rescue and in placing photos of the cats for adoption as they become ready.
I think education and low-cost clinics are necessary to stop the cat overpopulation that exists in Philadelphia. I’m also hoping that this crisis will bring animal advocates together who might influence legislation and better oversight of our animal shelters.
There is a lot to be done. Removing a few cats from the streets may not make a huge difference in the whole picture, but for those few cats that have been removed, it makes all the difference in their world.
I extend thanks from the bottom of my heart for helping me help cats who deserve to know kindness, full tummies, toys and warm beds this winter.
Getting up withIrving Berlin
During World War I, when Irving Berlin served in the Army, he wrote a song entitled “Oh! How I Hate To Get Up in The Morning.”
The music is great; the lyrics are priceless. It’s about soldiers who didn’t want to be in the Army. They didn’t want to go to war, and they didn’t want to get out of bed. It’s one of his most famous. Berlin was not a lucky man. He was a talented man, a musical genius and the greatest songwriter in the history of American music.
I, on the other hand, like to get out of bed. There is always something interesting to see – something to do. Always an opportunity to do something creative.
To this day, Berlin’s music is still alive. He died in New York City at age 101.