Do you know what watershed you live in? Ridley Creek is a historically important waterway and continues to play a critical role in the environment. Learn more about the health of Ridley Creek and how we can all work together to keep it healthy! Join Lauren McGrath, the Director of the Watershed Protection Program at Willistown Conservation Trust for a program focused on the headwaters of Ridley Creek. Click here to find out how to be a good neighbor!
THE NEED HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER
For over forty years, land conservation has been a primary focus of our mission resulting in more than 7,500 protected acres in the Willistown countryside. At Rushton Woods Preserve, we unite the Trust’s five core programs in Land Protection, Habitat Restoration, Sustainable Agriculture, Bird Conservation and Watershed.
RUSHTON WOODS PRESERVE BRINGS IT ALL TOGETHER
At Rushton Woods Preserve, we have protected an extraordinary slice of nature, constructed an inspiring building, created compelling and effective programming, and assembled a talented staff. We need your support now to strengthen the Rushton Woods Preserve infrastructure and programs.
A $2,000,000 campaign to strengthen the Rushton Woods Preserve, to inspire in all who visit a deep commitment to save the land and preserve the natural world for our children and future generations.
Funds from the Campaign for Rushton Woods Preserve
will go towards:
ESTABLISH RUSHTON WOODS FUND FOR OUTREACH AND PROGRAMMING | $1,000,000
Our programs educate and inspire people to take action and make a difference. They require educated and talented staff, equipment with maintenance needs, and state-of-the-art curricula. This excellent programming has noticeable impacts on our participants. Both children and adults benefit from our workshops, presentations, guest speakers, research and events. Funding for this will be used to enhance:
• Land Protection & Stewardship
• Habitat Restoration
• Community Farm
• Bird Conservation
• Watershed Protection
• Research, Education,
Outreach & Events
• Equipment & Supplies
• Community engagement opportunities
DESIGN AND IMPLEMENT STEWARDSHIP AND HABITAT RESTORATION PLAN | $425,000
Rushton Woods, like our other preserves, must be actively managed and maintained –both now and forever. It is home to healthy native habitats of early successional growth, northern hardwoods, meadows and grasslands and important riparian zones. Showcasing the Trust’s preserves as examples of healthy habitat while modeling land stewardship best practices is central to our mission. Funds for this will be used to:
• Develop a comprehensive Preserve Management Plan
• Restore & maintain 2.5 mile pedestrian and equestrian trail network (considering future connectivity to trails beyond preserve boundaries)
• Restore all represented habitats for maximum benefit to wildlife and people
• Improve habitat quality to support maximum diversity of species
• Increase opportunities for outdoor learning and field experience
• Capacity for carbon storage and sequestration
DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT PRESERVE ACCESS AND CIRCULATION PLAN | $175,000
The addition of the Rushton Conservation Center has exponentially increased the Trust’s outreach. The new building brings thoughtful leaders from near and far to discuss pertinent topics such as habitat, wildlife, land protection, stewardship and climate change, It also serves as a place for children and adults to learn about our work and the importance of conservation. As our programs grow and our outreach expands, the Preserve Access and Circulation Plan will address:
• Expanded parking at the Rushton Conservation Center
• Improved parking at Rushton Farm
• Access to farm outbuildings including tractor barn
• Water and electric to tractor barn
• Pedestrian pathway from farm to Rushton Conservation Center
• Interpretive signage and appropriate lighting
RESTORE HISTORIC WHITE FARMHOUSE FOR INTERNS AND VISITING CONSERVATIONISTS | $400,000
The White Farmhouse is a historic residence adjacent
to the newly built Rushton Conservation Center. The Farmhouse provides housing for interns and co-op students, aspiring farmers, biologists and researchers who work at Rushton Woods Preserve. Renovating the White Farmhouse will allow us to attract high-caliber staff and visiting conservationists for years to come. Funding will provide for:
• New roof and front entrance porch
• New siding and removal of old asbestos siding
• New fenestration and doors
• Interior renovation for optimal living space
• Exterior landscaping and privacy screening
For more information about the Campaign for Rushton Woods Preserve contact Tripp Way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if you treated your backyard as a piece of the larger mosaic of a habitat and added native plants to your landscape? The Trust’s Preserve Manager, Mike Cranney, for an overview of native plants and why they’re important to birds and other wildlife. Mike will be joined by Julie Snell and Lisa McDonald Hanes of Redbud Native Plant Nursery, located in Media, PA. Julie and Lisa will share their growing and sourcing practices, selecting the right plants for your space, and how to develop a thriving native plant landscape!
REDBUD NATIVE PLANT NURSERY
The mission of Redbud Native Plant Nursery is to be the primary source of sustainably raised native plants for retail buyers in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Building on the base established over the past seventeen years, the nursery will continue to provide unique stock at a location where customers can see, touch and smell native plants in person and interact with knowledgeable staff.
To learn more about Julie and Lisa’s nursery, please visit Redbud Native Plant Nursery’s website: www.redbudnative.com
It has been nearly six months since I wrote to you about the tragic death of George Floyd and the systemic racism that persists in our country. At that time, I pledged that the Willistown Conservation Trust would take intentional steps to examine what we, as an organization, can do better to help heal the wounds of injustice and to make the Trust, and the land trust movement as a whole, more relevant to all people regardless of background. We recognized that, to make a meaningful difference, we must strive to make our organizational structure, our natural resources and all of our programs more welcoming, inclusive and accessible to all people.
I am pleased to share that over the past several months we have made significant progress toward addressing these complicated issues. Early on we formed a working group, the Committee For Equity and Inclusion (CEI), consisting of several dedicated Trustees and staff members and co-chaired by Trustees Alice Hausmann and Alex Zozaya. This committee was charged with creating a path forward for the Trust to become an organization that reflects diversity and inclusion at every level, from internships and volunteers, to staff, to our board of Trustees. After a thoughtful examination of internal perspectives, and with input from a number of outside individuals, the Committee has taken an important first step in creating the path forward by developing a Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which I am excited to share with you. It reads as follows:
WILLISTOWN CONSERVATION TRUST
Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
The Mission of the Willistown Conservation Trust is “To preserve and manage the open land, rural character, scenic, recreational, historic, agricultural and natural resources of the Willistown area and nearby communities, and to share these unique resources with people of all ages and backgrounds to inspire, educate and develop a lifelong commitment to the land and the natural world.”
Historically, the voices and experiences of certain groups, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, have been and continue to be underrepresented in the land conservation movement. Willistown Conservation Trust believes that nature and open space are for everyone and embraces all forms of identity including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and class, religious or spiritual belief, age, and ability. As conservationists, we celebrate the vast diversity of life on our planet, and work each day to preserve and protect these natural resources for future generations. Guided by this ethos, we commit to including a broader and more diverse group of people in our work.
To fully realize our mission, we as an organization, must make a concerted effort to weave DEI into the fabric of our organization at all levels. In pursuit of that end, Willistown Conservation Trust commits to:
- An ongoing effort to reflect on and actualize our commitment to diversity throughout all levels of our organization.
- Examining our organization’s culture and business practices to ensure equity in our operations.
- Actively seek opportunities to learn about biases and injustices in the conservation field, and how we as an organization can better promote inclusivity across our programming.
As we commit to this work, we recognize that the process will be dynamic and ongoing. Working alongside other groups endeavoring to diversify conservation efforts in Chester County and beyond, we strive to recognize, amplify, and engage the voices and experiences of underrepresented groups for the benefit of not just our communities, but of the natural world.
This guiding statement on DEI was formed with the consensus of every Trustees and staff member, each of whom has committed to support the actions needed to ensure that the Trust becomes an agent for the kind of change that will help the healing process and assure a better future for all. Change that will serve to make not only our organization, but the land trust movement as a whole, stronger and more meaningful as we bring more people together with a shared passion for the land and our precious natural resources.
As we continue this important work, I invite your insights, comments, and questions. The Committee for Equity and Inclusion continues to meet monthly, working to establish concrete goals inspired by the Trust’s statement on DEI, including board and staff retreats, participation on the WeConservePA DEIJ Council, continued participation in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s DEIJ Workgroup, and an exciting new internship opportunity for minority students which will launch in the New Year.
Meanwhile, enjoy the upcoming Holidays! Be safe, be healthy, and may your New Year be EVERGREEN!
Bonnie Van Alen, Executive Director
With Thanksgiving approaching, it is an appropriate time to reflect upon our connection with the indigenous people who first lived on this land. As we enjoy and protect the beauty of Willistown, we cannot forget its original inhabitants and how their lifestyle echoes throughout the conservation of this land and its natural resources. While we preserve the land we must also preserve its history and the history of the native people. By sharing their story with the community, and working with local Native American organizations, we can hope to ensure that their legacy lives on with the land.
The indigenous people of southeastern Pennsylvania, known as the Lenape, lived throughout the Delaware River watershed. Just southwest of Philadelphia, along the banks of Crum, Ridley, and Chester Creeks, resided a small clan called the Okehocking. They belonged to the Unami, one of three Lenape tribes.
Like much of the Lenape, the Okehocking Clan felt immense pressure from European settlers. In 1701, they asked William Penn for the land of their own, safe from European encroachment. By 1703, Penn agreed to provide them 500 acres in modern day Willistown, the first Native American land grant in the American colonies. The diamond-shaped tract was bordered on the east and west by Plumsock and Garrett Mill Roads and extended north and south roughly to what is now known as Goshen Road and West Chester Pike. It is believed that this land was chosen largely due to a rock outcropping near its center resembling a turtle’s head, dubbed Turtle Rock since the tortoise was a symbolic representation of Mother Earth for the Unami Tribe.
Aside from the Ridley Creek floodplain, most of the area was not conducive to farming. The Okehocking, like many Native American tribes, burned fields to provide more ground for agriculture, while also hunting and fishing. The women foraged fruit, nuts, seeds, and even small amphibians from the forests and streams. During the winters, their Clan would move north towards the upper Schuylkill River. This ensured that the land was never overused, and had the ability to restore itself naturally.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the European settlers resumed their intrusion of indigenous land. Just a few years later, in 1710, the surrounding landowners had a new road added through the center of the territory, making Delchester the first recorded road in Willistown. Ongoing disputes over hunting grounds strained things further, and in 1718 the Okehocking Clan began moving out of their Willistown home. They returned in the summers for several years, but by 1735 they had abandoned the land entirely.
The respectful and harmonious relationship that the Okehocking people had with the land is still a model for conservation. Their stewardship is reflected in the work we do, from the regenerative clearing of fields and brush at our preserves to the sustainable agricultural practice of seasonal crop rotation on Rushton Farm. We are also focused on creating collaborations with the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania to help teach both us and the community about their history here. They generously consulted with our Watershed Protection team before the large tree planting project at Ashbridge Preserve to identify some of the species that would be illustrative of their way of life and moving forward, we hope to have representatives from the organization come out for public educational engagements. In the meantime, follow the links below to learn more about their organization and the history of the Lenape in Pennsylvania. And of course, come out to the preserves in Willistown to walk the land and experience some of the history firsthand.
– Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania
– Educaitonal video made through Penn Museum, a great source for information about the area’s indigenous people. Click to find out more about the video.