In a meeting held over Zoom on Thursday, June 30, leadership from the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE) unveiled their plan to sell off 24 acres of donated forested land.
In a meeting held over Zoom on Thursday, June 30, leadership from the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE) unveiled their plan to sell off 24 acres of donated forested land for development. Nearly 100 concerned citizens attended the meeting to express dismay and confusion about how this proposal could be put forth by a nonprofit whose espoused mission is to “encourage stewardship of the environment,’’particularly for the sake of future generations to come.
SCEE leadership had a host of scripted talking points to defray community outcry. The justification for sale of such a large, untouched wooded area is that the Center needs funding for nondescript capital improvements in the future, including stormwater management in Wind Dance Pond and more cages for patients at their wildlife rehab clinic. The irony of this “logic” is thick as toad eggs on the water’s edge in spring.
The tract of land SCEE proposes to sell off for development, known as the “Boy Scout Tract,” is directly adjacent to the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve, a 35-acre site that is the destination of thousands of American toads each spring as they congregate to mate and lay eggs. In early summer, the itty-bitty toadlets leave the reservoir and make their way back to the woods in the Boy Scout Tract and other SCEE land. The decade-old annual Toad Detour is perhaps SCEE’s most visible and continuous public outreach program, drawing hundreds of volunteers and no doubt many donations. Now those toads will be put in direct harm’s way by the very organization that preaches how critical they are to Philadelphia’s ecosystem. That the sale of this land is, purportedly, to fund wildlife rehabilitation efforts smacks of ridiculousness. How many injured and maimed toads will show up at the wildlife clinic once development of this land directly across the street begins? Never mind, you can’t see a little toad when you’re on a bulldozer.
Second irony, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse. The development of this tract of land directly uphill from naturalized Wind Dance Pond will cause greater stormwater runoff challenges than already exists. When the large mature trees here are torn down to create space for construction of even a “small development,” all that rich topsoil they held tight for decades will be washed away to the pond and river below. Even elementary school kids know the immense value of trees and soil to the long-term health of ecosystems and humans. That the director and the board of our city’s foremost environmental education nonprofit cannot foresee this disaster is utterly implausible. Particularly when the justification they use for this sale is a lack of funding to manage stormwater runoff to the very same pond that will be devastated by said development. What is the message here for children who visit and go to school at SCEE?
As a member of and donor to SCEE, I write this op-ed to sound the alarm. The land sale is still “in the works” as SCEE hopes to find a developer they think will be less destructive. In a world that feels out of our control, this is one injustice we can right before it goes entirely wrong.
Stop the sale of the Boy Scout Tract in Upper Roxborough. Express your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop funding this insincere organization that is welcoming bulldozers to remove trees and run over the toads and other wildlife they claim to protect.
Jennie Love is the owner of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, a regenerative flower farm in Upper Roxborough