The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education announced two months ago that we were exploring the potential sale of 24 acres of land.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education announced two months ago that we were exploring the potential sale of 24 acres of land to fund a number of transformational, once-in-a-generation initiatives. Among them are: investing in our staff who bring the Center and the land to life; education programs; and aging infrastructure, including our wildlife clinic, the only rehabilitation facility in the city. Unfortunately, this announcement has upset many of our neighbors and civic partners. I’m hoping that a more thorough explanation may address their concerns.
Most importantly, we have made no decision to sell. Our Board of Trustees is simply exploring all of its options, and has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) packed with conservation requirements. The deadline to receive a proposal is late September, and any decision, even to sell the land at all, is many months away, and if the board does not receive a satisfactory proposal, we will not sell.
As part of this process, we are simultaneously exploring the interest of potential donors, grantors, and community leaders to preserve the entire tract. Though the work is still unfolding and the outcome is uncertain, we hope to have an update in the near future to share with our members and the community. This possibility is our organization's priority at the moment, without question, and if this succeeds, we sidestep the proposal process completely.
Lost in the discussion is the fact that the Schuylkill Center has already permanently protected 420 acres of open space in Roxborough, more than any other entity. Our 340-acre campus in Upper Roxborough, comprising forests, fields, streams, and ponds, is under a permanent protective covenant, the largest privately-protected open space in the City of Philadelphia. Back in the 1980s, we sold an additional 80 acres to the city to be merged into Fairmount Park, also permanently protected. And if we sell the Boy Scout Tract, at least 12 of its 24 acres (and maybe more) will be protected too, resulting in 432 acres of protected land.
Turning to the RFP, we built numerous conservation safeguards into the document, like a conservation easement permanently protecting the steep slopes and floodplain. The easement is a legal agreement that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values; this will likely be a unique easement in that it requires a wooded corridor for the safe passage of migrating toads. We also ask that the floodplain, stormwater, and steep slopes measures exceed the city’s requirements, and that any development fit into the character of the neighborhood.
All of our trustees share a commitment for our twin mission of environmental stewardship and education. If we sell, we are seeking to leverage this possibility into an investment in our organization and its staff, in alignment with our strategic and master planning.
We continue to welcome your thoughts and engage in open dialogue. Please send your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Center’s staff is collecting all input and sharing this information with the Center’s leadership and Board.