2018 CHCA award winners and keynote speaker from The Nature Conservancy join Board Members in celebrating the Community Association’s 70th Anniversary at the 2018 Annual Meeting held at the Venetian Club on June 21. Left to right: Anne McNiff, executive director, Dan Pulka, vice president for operations, Winner of the Chestnut Hill Award – Debra Roberts, Director of St. Martin in the Field’s Community Supper Program, Winner of the Meritorious Service Award – Tracy Gardner, president of the Friends of Pastorius Park, Guest Speaker – Cary Nicholas, associate director of development – Pennsylvania, The Nature Conservancy, Marilyn Paucker, Vice President for Social Division, and Laura Lucas, President. (Photo by Janet Gala)

by Brendan Sample

At its Annual Community Meeting held at the Venetian Club on June 21, the Chestnut Hill Community Association celebrated its 70th anniversary while also honoring several people from the area for their charitable work.

Following a potluck dinner provided by the CHCA Board of Directors, the meeting began with an introduction of newly elected and reelected members of the board. Hillary O’Carroll, Jason Pierce, Craig Hosay, Keith Kunz, Tony Banks and Bradley Wells will all be new to the board, while Andy Kite, Jenny McHugh and Drew Meschter will all be returning for another term.

The guest speaker of the evening was Cary Nicholas, associate director of development for the Pennsylvania branch of the Nature Conservancy, a global organization dedicated to environmental conservation around the world. A longtime Mt. Airy resident, Nicholas gave a presentation called “Nature in Cities” about the conservancy’s desire to change the relationship between nature and cities, specifically, in this case, Philadelphia.

Though Nicholas said that the Chestnut Hill-Mt. Airy neighborhood contains “some of the most beautiful nature you’ll find anywhere,” the future of nature in Philadelphia as a whole presents many issues. The Conservancy has identified heat, flooding and storm water as the three biggest challenges facing the city from a nature perspective.

Heat accounts for the most deaths in Philadelphia of any natural phenomenon, so it remains a significant concern for the conservancy going forward. One way to combat this is by planting trees throughout the city to create more shade. Most of the city’s trees are concentrated in the Northwest, but the organization is aiming to have 30 percent coverage throughout the city, a target that the Northwest is already exceeding.

With Philadelphia being considered a coastal city from a geological perspective, Nicholas indicated that in the next 20 years, the city has a 97 percent chance of experiencing flooding similar to what New Jersey and New York had during Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the city’s sewer system for storm water is overwhelmed and too antiquated to handle its current load.

A significant reduction in flooding and storm water will, in many ways, be out of anyone’s direct control, but there are ways that nature can help combat rising levels of both. The Philadelphia Water Department has a program called Green City, Clean Waters, which will see the installation of green infrastructure throughout the city designed to soak up water before it gets to drains. Though this initiative was started by the PWD, the Conservancy is partnering with the Department in an effort to meet its goal of having 10,000 acres of these areas installed across the city by 2036.

After Nicholas’ presentation, CHCA Board President Laura Lucas provided a “State of the Association,” as she gave a brief recap of how a small group of residents began the CHCA in the fall of 1947. In terms of the Association’s current state, she referred to the last 12 months as “relatively quiet” and “drama-free.” She cited continuing events, taking over responsibility for the Chestnut Hill Tree Tenders, restarting the Streetscape Committee and having the work of local volunteers as some of the many reasons why they had a successful year.

“Our 70-year milestone and reputation as Chestnut Hill’s most ardent supporter ensures that year after year, with board members and volunteers coming and going, our enduring legacy continues,” Lucas said. “The bottom line is the Community Association has had a good year and we are well positioned for an even better year in 2018.”

Bob Warner, president of the Chestnut Hill Local Board of Directors, followed with a “State of the Local” for the past year. Despite recent Keystone awards, improved coverage of local politics and an increase in online users, budget concerns remain a significant factor for the Local. Advertising revenue has decreased by about $28,000 from the previous year, as last year’s budget contained an overall deficit of $16,000. In the midst of these setbacks, Warner praised the work of Local Associate Publisher Larry Hochberger in maintaining the paper’s expenses. He also relayed that the Local Board had been asked to put together a strategic plan to overcome budget concerns, which he hopes to have to present to the CHCA by the end of the summer.

Concluding the evening was the presentation of two CHCA awards. The Chestnut Hill Award for unusual and outstanding service that promoted or achieved understanding and cooperation among people of the community was presented to Debra Roberts, director of the St. Martin-in-the-Field Community Supper program. The program provides a meal for local residents in need twice a month, with monthly dinners having expanded to churches in Mt. Airy, Germantown and Roxborough. Since beginning the program at St. Martin’s in 2012, Roberts and her team have helped provide hot meals to over 18,000 people in total.

Tracy Gardner, president of the Friends of Pastorius Park, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for services that have substantially improved the quality of life within the community. As president, Gardner has overseen a number of Pastorius developments in recent years, including the installation of three aeration fountains in the park’s pond. After accepting the award, Gardner spoke about her initial desire to help improve what had been the deteriorating quality of the park, which is thankfully no longer the case. She also called Pastorius the “village commons,” as it has the ability to bring people together in unique ways.

The next CHCA Board of Directors meeting is set for July 26 at 7 p.m. at Blossom Philadelphia.