Dear Fellow Conservationists,
The pace of spring and transition into summer is always intense at the Brandywine Conservancy due to the multitude of events we host and commencement of a lot of our seasonal work including: the bulk of our in-person easement monitoring (over 512 easements on over 70,200 acres), coordination with landowners stewarding their conserved lands, and providing technical assistance to farmers around spring planting schedules. This year seemed even more compressed due to challenging weather patterns that saw a wet, warm April, followed by a cooler, very dry May. Those not working the land at a farmer’s scale were no doubt aware of the dry conditions impacting your landscaping and personal gardens.
Though drought is typically not front of mind for us, it must be planned for in addition to the more intense storm events we now regularly experience. The Conservancy feels well-positioned to help landowners, and ourselves, navigate these challenges thanks to our Climate Resiliency Initiative we launched in April, elements of which appear in the new "Climate Corner" debuting in this issue. In addition to climate challenges, our environment is under increasing threat from emerging contaminants, including the recently high-profile class of “forever chemicals,” that also pose human health risks. We are pleased to provide an article on these from our partners at the Stroud Water Research Center. Another ongoing threat to our region is from invasive species, which is an ever-popular spotlight in each issue of Environmental Currents. This month’s spotlight features Small Carpetgrass—timed for providing readers with summer treatment options.
But there is also renewed hope and beauty to our environment as the return of native pollinators reminds us of the resiliency of nature. As you are out enjoying the summer season and happen to catch any photos of them, please consider submitting your images to our Pollinator Photo Challenge. Or perhaps you may choose to join one of our guided walks to experience the beauty showcased in our “Piedmont Vegetation Spotlight” or the “Geology of the Laurels Preserve” articles. The Laurels and greater King Ranch landscape can also be appreciated through the new publication, Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run, by local author Kathleen Hood who is graciously donating all proceeds to the Conservancy.
As we enter the heart of summer, the Conservancy will be wishing Susan Charkes (Land Conservation Program Lead Planner) a happy retirement from the daily 9 to 5 as she begins a new chapter focusing on her many noteworthy passion projects. Lastly, please join us in celebrating the Lifetime Achievement Award that our own David Shields received at the WeConservePA annual conference earlier this spring. David was honored alongside equally worthy former Chester County Commissioner, and recently retired Lancaster Farmland Trust Executive Director, Karen Martynick. We thank David for all he accomplished for the Brandywine Conservancy and the field of conservation!
— Stephanie and Grant
Stephanie Armpriester, Director of Conservation and Stewardship
Grant DeCosta, Director of Community Services
Earlier this spring, our recently retired and longtime colleague David Shields was honored with WeConservePA's Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award at the 2023 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference, along with Karen Martynick, the former Executive Director of the Lancaster Farmland Trust. This award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to conservation in Pennsylvania over the course of their life.
During his 38 years working for the Brandywine Conservancy, David made a significant impact in conserving the farmland, historic sites and buildings, forests, wetlands, streams and other natural resources of the Brandywine Valley and nearby watersheds in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.
“David leaves behind a legacy of protected forests, fields, and streams; rolling scenic landscapes; world-class prime agricultural soils; and beauty as part of his long career with the Brandywine Conservancy," said Stephanie Armpriester, Brandywine's Director of Conservation and Stewardship. "While many of these awards are given to the leaders that set a vision and then had staff complete, David is one that was both a leader and a workhorse who set both the vision AND completed the detailed oriented easement and fee acquisition steps—knowing, understanding and living a conservation life from an intern to an Associate Director."
Invasive Species Spotlight: Small Carpetgrass (Arthraxon Hispidus)
Arthraxon hispidus is a grass that goes by many common names, including Joint-Head Grass, Hairy Joint Grass, Small Carp Grass and Creek Grass. In this invasive species spotlight, we’ll refer to it as Small Carpetgrass to mirror how it is listed on the PA DCNR Invasive Plant List—where it was recently moved from the watch list onto the main list for being a significant threat to native plant communities.
Pennsylvania is one of only 11 states that identify Small Carpetgrass as an invasive species, even though it has been observed along the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and as far west as Oklahoma. The population in Pennsylvania is currently limited to the southeastern and south-central parts of the state. This relatively small distribution makes early detection crucial to the state-wide management of this species.
With the dual mission of protecting art and the environment, the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art has consistently looked for ways to reduce our environmental impact, not only through the Conservancy’s external work but also throughout our campus buildings and grounds in Chadds Ford, PA. One of the ways Brandywine has been able to reduce our environmental footprint over the years is through the purchase of wind energy. Since 2014, the Brandywine Museum of Art has received power exclusively from wind energy. By using wind power over this eight-year period, the Museum avoided the use of approximately 22,000 barrels of oil.
As the renewable energy market has expanded, Brandywine has been able to transition additional buildings to wind energy. As of 2023, all 22 Brandywine facilities are using wind energy. This includes all administrative buildings and offices, as well as the organization's historic artist studios and nature preserves. The annual impact of shifting all Brandywine facilities to renewable energy is equivalent to 3,157 barrels of oil, or carbon sequestered by 22,500 tree seedlings over 10 years.
In addition to switching all Brandywine facilities to 100% renewable wind energy, the organization's facilities department has been working to implement other energy and cost-saving measures, including converting lighting to LEDs and upgrading facilities with energy efficient equipment. These small upgrades can have a big impact on energy efficiency.
As part of the Conservancy’s Climate Resiliency initiative, Brandywine staff are working together to identify additional opportunities to reduce or offset our environmental impact and increase climate resiliency on our campus and within our community.
Shortly before Earth Day this year, the Brandywine Conservancy launched a new Climate Resiliency Initiative to help local municipalities and landowners proactively address climate change in their communities. Built on over 56 years of experience, this Initiative formalizes the organization’s ongoing internal and external efforts to improve environmental sustainability and brings cross-departmental expertise—through technical assistance, funding, education, planning and project implementation—directly to its constituents to help combat climate issues.
With the Climate Resiliency Initiative, the Conservancy is targeting two types of actions: climate mitigation (direct, tangible efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and climate adaptation (planning for resilience against the impacts of climate change). To collaborate with landowners and municipal partners, Conservancy staff have developed a suite of services to improve land management and strategic planning options at various levels—from addressing individual properties to a full landscape approach—as well as a variety of municipal planning tools to assist with climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Recently, the Conservancy acted as the lead planning consultant to update the Comprehensive Plans for Malvern Borough and Highland Township in Chester County, PA. These updates included Community Climate Profiles for both the Borough and Township, as well as climate resiliency goals to help prepare these urban and rural communities for future increases in extreme weather events.
"Malvern Borough recognizes the challenges that our changing climate places on our operations, environment and infrastructure. With the assistance of the Brandywine Conservancy, we have been proactive in incorporating climate resiliency-related actions into our most recent Comprehensive Plan," said Amy Finkbiner, Ph.D., President of Malvern Borough Council. "In a climate that has seen more frequent and intense storms, as well as prolonged periods of excessive heat, the Borough has adopted a variety of recommendations focused on a better understanding of areas of vulnerability. By utilizing the benefits derived from the protection and stewardship of natural resources, and the installation of green stormwater infrastructure, we can both mitigate and adapt to climate change now and into the future. We're thankful for the expert guidance the Conservancy has provided in this endeavor.
“While Malvern Borough and Highland Township may appear to be opposites in many ways, they were both resolute in their desire to position their municipalities for a resilient future by embracing both traditional and proven-innovative strategies,” said Grant DeCosta, Director of Community Services for the Brandywine Conservancy. Since the Conservancy’s founding in 1967, the organization has protected and conserved the land, water, natural and cultural resources of southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware through a multi-disciplinary approach. To date, the Conservancy has permanently protected over 70,000 acres of land from development, while also helping communities plan for the conservation and management of the region’s natural resources. “These successes have made the Conservancy a trusted partner with state and local governments, foundations, farmers, industry peers and individual property owners, which enables the organization to better collaborate on timely climate actions,” added DeCosta. “The Climate Resiliency Initiative aligns with the Conservancy’s core vision and mission, and it will be instrumental in helping our communities address concerns with flood mitigation, changes in flora and fauna, stormwater management, extreme heat and renewable energy.”
The Brandywine’s internal commitment to reducing its climate impact involves both ongoing and new efforts, including the long-term reliance on native plants to create biodiverse habitats and increased stormwater infiltration throughout its campus gardens and preserves, to the organization’s wind power purchase agreement which now provides wind power to all of the Brandywine’s buildings on its campus in Chadds Ford, PA.
More information on the Brandywine Conservancy’s new Climate Resiliency Initiative, and how to get involved, can be found at www.brandywine.org/climate.
Piedmont Vegetation Spotlight: Tuliptree – Beech – Maple Forest
In the Piedmont region of the Eastern United States, forests have faced immense pressure, particularly in southeastern Pennsylvania. To that end, there has never been a better time to think about long-term, sustainable forest management. To do so, we must first understand what the forests of the Piedmont region looked like prior to European settlement and what they look like now to appropriately steward them into the future. In a new series of blogs over the coming year, we will highlight examples of the vegetative communities of the Piedmont and explain their history, composition, threats and opportunities for enhancement.
PFAS Explained: What You Should Know About These "Forever Chemicals"
A class of human-made, long-lasting chemicals widely used in the manufacturing of everyday products ranging from nonstick cookware to cosmetics are being targeted by researchers aiming to mitigate levels found in soils and water. In the following guest article by Diana Oviedo Vargas, Ph.D., and Diane Huskinson from Stroud Water Research Center, read on to learn more about these so-called "forever chemicals," including how they enter the environment, associated health risks and resources to help you limit your exposure.
Geology of the Laurels
Rocks are literally the foundation of the Laurels. They provide a firm footing to trails, jut in dramatic outcrops along hillsides, and furnish steps to cross streams. Unseen, rocks underlie the Preserve’s hills and valleys. In addition to adding beauty, rocks tell stories: the history of continents and ancient seas, and how landforms continue to change today. But first you have to know how to read and understand the language of rocks.
One could not ask for better translators than LeeAnn Srogi and Tim Lutz, both emeritus Professors in the Earth and Space Sciences Department of West Chester University. In the below article, they shared their expertise as the basis for this brief guide.
Share the Road: Safe Cycling Tips
With summer officially in full swing—and the sixth annual Bike the Brandywine approaching in the fall—you have most likely seen an increase in the number of cyclists out enjoying the beautiful scenery our area has to offer. With more bikes hitting the pavement, we thought it might be helpful to provide a summary of some considerations, resources, and rules of the road that could benefit us all.
It was a busy Earth Day for the Brandywine Conservancy staff this spring! In addition to hosting our own annual Brandywine River Cleanup event, we were thrilled to participate in several outreach events across the community. See below for a fun snapshot from all of the Earth Day festivities we were proud to participate in this year.
Brandywine Conservancy staff at the Wilmington Earth and Arbor Day event at the City’s at Cool Spring Reservoir. The event was sponsored by the Department of Public Works which made the event run smoothly and efficiently. There were over two dozen exhibitors present, food from the Wilmington Kitchen Collective, and music provided by DJ Tim Dogg. Brandywine Conservancy staff spoke with local Wilmington residents to gather information about where they reside and where they like to spend time outdoors along the Brandywine Creek.
Brandywine Conservancy staff hosted an information and engagement table at the Upper Main Line YMCA Earth Day Festival. The Festival marked the 25th Anniversary of environmental education and was co-hosted by PA Senator Carolyn Comitta.
Brandywine Conservancy staff participated in PA State Rep. Craig Williams's Earth Day litter clean up along PA Route 202, just north of the Route 1 intersection. It was a wonderful opportunity to extend the impact of the Conservancy’s own River cleanup event that day.
Brandywine staff and volunteers also gathered at the Conservancy's annual River Cleanup event on Earth Day, which celebrated its 30th year in 2023. Since the event's inception, volunteers have removed more than 30 tons of trash from the banks of the Brandywine between Lenape and the Delaware state line.
Up near the Brandywine’s Penguin Court Preserve in Westmoreland County, PA, Melissa Reckner, the preserve’s program manager, hosted a “Signs of Spring” walk for the Westmoreland Land Trust and Sewickley Creek Watershed Association at the Otto and Magdalene Ackermann Nature Preserve in Ardara, PA. Several spring wildflowers were identified along the walk, including a Virginia waterleaf flower.
A drizzly day set the stage for another successful running of the Radnor Hunt Races on Saturday, May 20, 2023. Supporting the open space and clean water programs of the Brandywine Conservancy, the annual steeplechase event celebrated its 92nd year with the finest thoroughbred horses, riders and trainers from across the country competing in five thrilling jump races sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association and the prestige of $110,000 in purse money. The day also featured the third annual Katherine W. Illoway Memorial Invitational Sidesaddle Race, the return of the adorable lead line pony races, a spectacular antique carriage parade, and the crowd favorite parade of foxhounds.
"Even the weather couldn’t dampen the excitement of the Radnor Hunt Races this year. This time-honored and beloved tradition in our region was made possible thanks to countless hours of planning from our staff, the Radnor Hunt Race committee, Willistown Boy Scout Troop 78, and dozens of other volunteers,” said Christy Wray Greenberg, Associate Director of Fundraising Events and Sponsorship for the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. “We are especially grateful for the generous support of our sponsors, partners and purse donors who contributed to this year’s event, as well as our dedicated patrons who join us each year ‘Racing for Open Space’ in support of the Brandywine Conservancy.”
Built on a rich history of horse racing that has been cultivated in this region for nearly 100 years, the Radnor Hunt Races are supported by the legacy of permanently protecting the stunning open spaces that make this region such a beautiful place to call home. "For more than 40 years, the Radnor Hunt Races has been 'Racing for Open Space' in support of the Brandywine Conservancy’s open space and clean water programs," said Stephanie Armpriester, Brandywine’s Director of Conservation and Stewardship. “Steeplechase racing has a rich history and tradition in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States thanks to the legacy of protecting open space that has allowed the sport to flourish. Since 1967, the Brandywine Conservancy has protected over 70,000 acres of open space—including the Radnor Hunt racecourse itself and surrounding lands.”
“As a key fundraiser for the Brandywine Conservancy each year, the Radnor Hunt Races also supports the organization’s critical work to improve and safeguard water quality, as well as our efforts to provide innovative community planning services to municipalities, engage landowners in stewardship of their land, and pursue new perspectives on climate resiliency and sustainability in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware,” added Grant DeCosta, Brandywine Conservancy’s Director of Community Services.
To date, the event has raised over $5.5 million for the Conservancy’s clean water and open space programs. Held annually on the third Saturday in May, the Radnor Hunt Races will return for its 93rd year on May 18, 2024, in Willistown Township, Chester County. For more information, visit www.radnorhuntraces.org.
The 92nd Radnor Hunt Races were made possible thanks to the generous support of its sponsors and purse donors. Corporate sponsors include RDS Automotive Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Keystone, The Thomson Family, dfYOUNG, Fox Rothschild LLP, Lockton, Le Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia , Black Stallion Estate Winery, Warren Claytor Architects, Inc., Claytor Noone Plastic Surgery, Apogee Insurance Group, West Pharmaceutical Services, and Brick & Brew Gastropub. Additional support was provided by the Race’s event sponsors, including Peter Zimmerman Architects — Jockey Tent Sponsor; Cherry Knoll Farm — Jump Sponsor; Iron Spring Farm — Carriage Parade Sponsor; 1883 Foundation — Katherine W. Illoway Memorial Invitational Sidesaddle Race Sponsor; Brosnan Dental, ENB Wealth Solutions, The National Bank of Malvern, and Warren Claytor Architects, Inc. — Pony Race Sponsors; Bryn Mawr Landscaping and Sunshine Landscaping — Horse Equipment Sponsors; and Radnor Hunt Race Committee — Owner, Trainer, Rider Officials Hospitality. Media partners include Today Media—Delaware Today, Main Line Today and The Hunt—and County Lines Magazine. Additional thanks go out to Alliance, B&D Builders LLC, Brandywine Electronics, Fenceworks, Mamie Duff, Peace Products, Radnor Hunt Pony Club, Rajant, Roots Landscape, Sommsation, Willistown Troop 78, and Wrong Crowd Beer Company.
New Historic Marker at Birmingham Hill
On May 31, Birmingham Township unveiled a new historic marker on the Brandywine's Birmingham Hill Preserve—one of 15 new signs to be installed throughout key sites relating to the Battle of Brandywine.
This project was a partnership between the Brandywine Battlefield Taskforce, 15 local municipalities, and the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution and its Color Guard. The Sons of the Revolution also generously provided the funds for this work.
We hope you take some time to read this new historic marker during your next visit to Birmingham Hill Preserve!
The Brandywine Conservancy was thrilled to hold its in-person Regional Roundtable meetings for our Brandywine Creek Greenway partners this past May!
Brandywine Conservancy began hosting regional meetings to unite our Greenway partners in the spring of 2012. The regional meetings serve as a space for networking and collaborating while commending the successes accomplished over the year. These meetings allow the opportunity for our partners to connect while learning about the exciting projects each municipality is undertaking to contribute to the goals of the Greenway and our communities. Additionally, these roundtables let the Conservancy update all partners on projects in progress and future endeavors along the Greenway.
Brandywine Creek Greenway Mini Grant Updates:
- Chadds Ford Township has almost completed its wayfinding signage along the Brandywine Creek.
- East Fallowfield Township is preparing to install a gazebo in the East Fallowfield Township Community Park for use during their Summer Concert Series.
Other notable projects included:
- Wallace Township's Burgess Park rain garden, installed with funds from the 2021 Mini Grant Round.
- Additional parking at Smithbridge for increased visitors at First State National Park.
- East Bradford Township has completed the Shaw’s Bridge Park Canoe launch.
- Other updates regarding trail upgrades and wayfinding signage to accommodate increased use and accessibility for the greenway community.
Brandywine Creek Greenway would like to offer special thanks to Pennsbury Township for hosting the Southern Region Roundtable, Upper Uwchlan Township for hosting the Northern Region Roundtable and the Brandywine Creek State Park for hosting the Delaware Region Roundtable.
The Brandywine Creek Greenway appreciates all partners' continued dedication to expanding the quality of our community. For more information about the Brandywine Creek Greenway, please visit our website.
Hosted by the Brandywine's Penguin Court Preserve and the Westmoreland Pollinator Partners—both based in Westmoreland County, PA—the third annual Pennsylvania Pollinator Photo Challenge is open to the public now through August 4, 2023.
To enter, submit your best photos of pollinators found and photographed in Pennsylvania, such as bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, hummingbirds, moths or wasps. New this year will be a contest category dedicated to monarch butterflies in all their life stages.
A maximum of three submissions per photographer are allowed, with categories available for adults and youth. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in both categories. Click here to learn more about how you can participate.
NEW BOOK: Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run
The history of the King Ranch in Unionville, PA comes alive with this exciting new publication, "Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run." Author Kathleen Hood teamed up with the former King Ranch Cowboys and local artist Randall Graham to create a book that captures the essence of life on the ranch from the cowboys’ perspective. "Where are the Cowboys?" provides factual information on the ranch operation with historic photos and is sure to be enjoyed by the entire family.
Click here to order your limited-edition copy today! 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this publication are donated to the Brandywine Conservancy.