Saying goodbye to our patients

Flying squirrel 19-1849 receiving a feeding

Flying squirrel 19-1849 receiving a feeding

It’s hard to say goodbye to patients who have been with us for a long time, and this flying squirrel was cared for at the Wildlife Clinic for 129 days!

Last November we received 2 baby flying squirrels, both with their eyes still closed. They had been found in an attic, and unfortunately the finder was not willing to attempt to reunite them with their mother. Both babies were thin, dehydrated, and hypothermic on arrival, and sadly one little squirrel didn’t make it. We were able to help this little girl pull through, and she has been with us all winter.

Flying squirrels nest in colonies to share resources and stay warm through the winter. She wasn’t old enough to be released until winter had already set in and we knew she wouldn’t make it on her own, so we waited until spring to return her to the wild. These pictures show flying squirrel 19-1849 receiving a feeding when she first arrived with us, and peeking out of her nest box the day she was soft-released last week.

We wish her the best of luck!

Peaking out of her nest box the day she was soft-released.

Peaking out of her nest box the day she was soft-released.

The Schuylkill Center’s Forest is Open for Business!

Photo Credit: Jerome Eno

Photo Credit: Jerome Eno

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

Like almost every institution in the region and every school in the state, the Schuylkill Center closed our Visitor Center last week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Nature Preschool closed for two weeks, and we canceled all programming through the end of the month.

Our Wildlife Clinic on Port Royal Avenue, however, remains open, taking your injured, orphaned and sick creatures. Our staff there, some of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet, are practicing social distancing and enhanced sanitizing to keep both you and them safe and healthy.

And while the Visitor Center is closed and most staff working remotely, staff will be there, taking care of mail and monitoring the facility.

But in these challenging times, we’d like to offer an important service: our forest is open for business. Simply park on the small Hagy’s Mill Road parking lot, and walk into our trails–a large map greets you as you walk in.

Because open spaces and nature are restorative to our souls, inhaling just one breath of the pine scent in our Pine Grove, one of the first features you’ll meet when you walk our trails from Hagy’s Mill Road, lowers your blood pressure. Literally. Numerous studies show that pinene, the chemical that gives pine its characteristic odor, is calming for us. In fact, the Japanese practice “forest bathing,” visiting especially evergreen forests to sit quietly and drink in the healing scents. You can too.

But seeing green does this to us as well, and the very first buds of spring are now popping open revealing very small leaves cloaked in an impossibly bright green, my favorite green of all time.

Bird song, amazingly, is calming too, say those studies, and our 300-acre forest is overflowing with birds, many returning from a winter’s migration south. Robins, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, mourning doves, crows and more are flying through our forest and can easily be seen in the bird feeders at our bird blind at the end of the paved Widener Trail.

Spring’s first turtles were seen last week on the edges of Fire Pond near our Visitor Center’s front door, awakened from their winter hibernation. The first woodchucks were seen chugging along our trails last week, also freshly awake. A fox was spotted too by our staff, but it was active all winter, hunting the many small animals that inhabit our forest.

And the very first American toads that famously cross Port Royal Avenue on warm rainy nights in spring started last week too. (We’re not asking Toad Detour volunteers to gather this year to help them cross–watch the Toad Detour facebook page for more updates.)

Our forest is expansive enough and our trails numerous enough that you can easily practice the 6-foot distancing you need between you and other people.

And the times are stressful enough that you need some relief, and with many restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters closed, there are only so many Netflix specials you can stream.

Greenspaces elevate our mood, alleviate anxiety, lower depression while lowering blood pressure, and even offer a good cardio workout. Our Visitor Center was carefully perched atop our land’s highest spot, so all trails ultimately lead to an uphill walk to the Visitor Center. There’s  one, the Jubilee Grove trail, that I’ve nicknamed the Stairmaster–that one gets your heart going.

We expect to reopen the Visitor Center and Nature Preschool on Monday, March 30, resuming all of our programming then–depending on the arc of the pandemic. Frequent updates will be available on our website,, and via social media. We will be watching the situation very closely, and adjusting the March 30 reopening if needed.

We will also watch advisories regarding the Wildlife Clinic, even consider closing that site of course if it protects our staff and its visitors. Given this is the only such facility in Philadelphia and one of only a handful in the region, we will strive to keep it open.


Schuylkill Center response to COVID-19 coronavirus situation


Updated 3/31/2020

The Schuylkill Center remains closed through April 30 as mandated by Governor Tom Wolf. This closure includes the Visitor Center, Nature Preschool, and Nature Playscape.  

All programming has been suspended through the month of April.  We will update our website with future plans. 

For the safety and well-being of staff, volunteers, and the public, we have temporarily suspended admissions to the Wildlife Clinic.  If you do encounter a wild animal in distress, the Clinic’s 24-Hour Wildlife Hotline remains open for emergency calls and wildlife inquiries: 215-482-7300 option 2.

Our trails are open dawn to dusk, every day. Enjoying sunshine and fresh air will help get us through this unusual time we’re in.  Please practice appropriate social distancing while on the trails and give those around you at least 6 feet of space—one full stretched turkey vulture, to be exact!

Reminder: please keep your pets at home.  We ask you to keep the nearby roads safe by parking appropriately in designated lots and take all of your trash and belongings with you when you leave.

Thank you again for enjoying the Schuylkill Center.


Updated 3/25/2020

The Schuylkill Center continues to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and will update you whenever new information comes to us. 

At this date, we will continue to remain closed through Monday, April 6, as the Governor has mandated. This closure includes the Visitor Center (including the outdoor Nature Playscape), Nature Preschool, Monkey Tail Gang, and the Wildlife Clinic. The Wildlife Clinic will not accept new patients from the public but will continue to respond to emergency calls and wildlife inquiries on its 24-hour wildlife hotline (215-482-7300 x 2).

For our Nature Preschool families, we are currently exploring online options for our teachers to remain in virtual contact with your children.  We will contact you directly with more details in the coming days.

All April programs have been postponed or cancelled until further notice. Please check our website at for the most recent updates.

At this time, our trails on our 300-acre forest remain OPEN and FREE of charge to the community each day from dawn to dusk. If you do go for a walk, allow an ample 6’ distance between fellow hikers.  Please enjoy our forests and fields, and ponds and streams on foot.  We are a nature preserve–no pets or bicycles are allowed on the trails so the creatures in our forest remain undisturbed.  Parking is available in the small parking area accessible from Hagy’s Mill Road. If that lot is full, please park near the baseball fields at Port Royal Avenue and Hagy’s Mill Road, across from the reservoir park (indicated in red on this map).

We hope you and your families remain healthy and safe at this unprecedented moment in history.

Alternate parking to access trails from Hagy's Mill Road

Alternate parking to access trails from Hagy’s Mill Road


Updated 3/19/2020

For the safety and wellbeing of our animal patients, staff, volunteers, and animal rescuers, the Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center is temporarily closing to the public as of March 19 until further notice. 

We will sustain our existing operations with limited staff to provide essential treatment for more than 30 patients currently receiving care, but we are unable to accept walk-in patient admissions. 

If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please reach out to us by phone. Our wildlife hotline (215-482-7300 x option 2) remains in operation, and we will respond to emergency calls and wildlife inquiries 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. In this way we will continue to fulfill our crucial role as an emergency resource by providing instruction and education for members of the community who find injured and orphaned wild animals in need. For non-emergency wildlife questions, please contact us by email at

The safety and health of humans and animals is critically important to us, and we know that with rational and reasonable action we can continue to provide life-saving care to wildlife in need. We ask for your understanding during these challenging times and we will reassess reopening the clinic on a daily basis. Please check our website for any updates. 



Updated 3/13/2020

Dear Schuylkill Center members, visitors, and friends,

The Schuylkill Center is committed to maintaining a safe environment for all visitors, members, volunteers, and staff. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so does our strategy to limit transmission in our community. Beginning Saturday, March 14 and continuing through the next two weeks until March 29, we will be exercising an abundance of caution by closing the Visitor Center. Nature Preschool will also close, and our Monkey Tail Gang after-school program will be canceled; both programs will follow the School District of Philadelphia’s schedule. Additionally, all public programs during these two weeks will be cancelled. 

We expect to reopen the Visitor Center and Nature Preschool on Monday, March 30, resuming our programming then. Frequent updates will be available at and via social media. We will be watching the situation very closely, and adjusting the March 30 reopening if needed.

Our Wildlife Clinic, given its critical lifesaving work, will remain open during this time, but our staff will practice additional social distancing and enhanced cleaning there.

But here’s the good news! The TRAILS on our 300-acre forest remain OPEN and FREE of charge to the community each day from dawn to dusk. Please park in the special parking area on Hagy’s Mill Road, and enjoy our trails. Outdoor time is one of the best things to do for well-being during times such as this. Spending time outside is a well-established but underappreciated way for people to feel healthy– and happy. So keep active, just in smaller groups. Go for a walk, or hike on our trails to give yourselves a bit of welcome distraction. Enjoy the first signs of spring with emerging wildflowers and the songs of migrating songbirds. You’ll feel better for it.

(Posted 3/11/2020)

As we all know, the COVID-19 coronavirus situation is fast-moving and quickly changing, with the virus now present in nearby communities.  As the health and safety of our staff and visitors–especially the many children who visit us–is of paramount importance, we have been working on our preparedness for what may be happening, and we wanted to alert you to our work.

While this is a rapidly developing situation, it is important to stress that there are–at this writing–no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia, and we remain open to the public with no changes in hours or programming.

Regarding Nature Preschool, the city’s Department of Public Health, whose website contains a lot of information on the virus, has not issued any recommendations to close schools. Please know we will follow its recommendations rigorously and to the letter. We will also monitor the special website of the School District of Philadelphia for updates as well.

Also, thus far, the Centers for Disease Control, whose website we are also carefully monitoring,  is only recommending quarantine for people who have recently returned from China and Iran, plus travel restrictions to the virus’ hotspots.

Our staff is maintaining best practices across the organization and building, including making sure sick staff stay home and take sick days. Our staff is washing our hands regularly and routinely, and we have placed handwashing signs across the building to keep this basic practice at the forefront of our attention. Our front desk staff is attentive to that site’s cleanliness, where so many people gather, disinfecting it regularly– and we are doing the same with door handles and other surfaces many people touch. We are also following the many common-sense public health guidelines that have been issued in recent days.

Some children may experience anxiety related to COVID-19. It is important to remind them that the adults in their lives are taking steps to protect them from illness. They can help protect themselves by handwashing and telling a trusted adult if they feel ill. The National Association of School Psychologists has offered advice for parents and guardians for talking with children about this subject, and that link is here.

Our action plan will change and evolve in response to the virus, and this information will be updated as needed. We will stay in touch with you when changes come, and invite you to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments.

Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director




Natural Selections: Manayunk and Manatawna: Our Lenape Place Names

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

5e544c255ef38.imageOne of the pleasures of teaching and talking about our Roxborough land are our historic place names, so many of them Lenape in origin: Wissahickon, Conshohocken, Manatawna, Cinnaminson, Manayunk. Widen the lens a bit, and Philadelphia maps burst with Lenape words: Shackamaxon, Wingohocking, Kingsessing, Tulpehocken, Tioga.

Sadly, Phildelphians are taught too little, if anything, about the Lenape, the original people here, our First People, and too much that is taught is at best misleading and too often wrong. That statue of a Lenape chief that guards a bluff above the Wissahickon? He is carelessly outfitted as a Western Plains Indian, and historians agree there were no councils on Council Rock.

Deborah Del Collo, an archivist for the Roxborough, Manayunk, and Wissahickon Historical Society, and author of the excellent “Images of America: Roxborough,” wrote in its introduction, “The words manatawney and manaiung,” the latter her transliteration of Manayunk, “are intertwined with the beginning of Roxborough.” Manatawna is, of course, the name of a narrow street that connects Ridge Avenue just past Cathedral Avenue with Hagy’s Mill Road; you can see the road in the 1926 aerial photo of Upper Roxborough included here – it’s on the far right; that’s Ridge Avenue slicing through the foreground.

But an 1895 railroad atlas in my office curiously shows the word “Manatawna” used to mark the small village of homes near where that narrow street connects to the Ridge, as if Manatawna was a small town just outside the larger Roxborough. Readers, could this be true?

Del Collo wrote that “the Manatawney, which is currently Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, is a path from the native plantations of upper Roxborough to the Falls of the Schuylkill in the current East Falls section of Roxborough.” So she indicates that perhaps Manatawney was the original name of the Ridge. A tawney, she writes, is an open road and mana could mean “raging” or “god,” so she translates Manatawney as “an open road from our creator.”

While I love this, Wikipedia – I know, don’t believe everything you read online – includes a long list of Lenape place names under the entry “Lenapehoking,” the Lenape word for this land where we all live. They include Manatawny on this list, here with no “e” before the “y,” and use it to refer to a creek just outside Pottstown, and say the name means “place where we drink.”

Which is ironic, as many people know the derivation of Manayunk, which is usually said to be “place where we drink,” everyone ironically chuckling at modern Manayunk’s collection of bars and restaurants. Del Collo writes, “The addition of iung (water or stream) to mana in manaiung translates to a ‘raging river,’ which makes perfect sense since the waters of the Schuylkill bordering Roxborough were raging waters in Lenape days.” To make it navigable, the famous Falls of the Schuylkill of course were buried under water from the Flat Rock dam.

Wikipedia hews to the more traditional translation of Manayunk, “place where we go to drink.” I like Del Collo’s translations on both counts, but I’d love for Lenape scholars and native speakers to weigh in.

“Schuylkill,” of course, is a Dutch place name, translating to “hidden river.” But what did the Lenape call this important river? Pennsylvania Heritage published a 2013 piece by historian Joan Wenner, “A River Runs Through Penn’s Woods: Tracing the Mighty Schuylkill,” where she writes, “Once the grand watercourse was home to the Delaware Indians who called it the manaiunk meaning ‘rushing and roaring waters.’”

Apart from all the different spellings of the word, Benner indicates that the Lenape called the river itself Manayunk, and she backs up Del Collo on the “roaring” part. Manayunk: roaring water. Great name.

Nobody disagrees on Wissahickon; I’ve always heard it translated as “catfish stream.” But Del Collo writes that “Wisa can mean ‘catfish’ or ‘yellow,’ and hickon means ‘mouth of a large stream or tide;’ therefore Wissahickon literally means ‘a large catch of catfish found at the mouth of the creek.’” This makes way more sense to me: the catfish would have been in the Schuylkill – pardon me, the Manayunk – so the Lenape caught fish congregating in the Manayunk where the Wissahickon enters it, today where the Canoe Club sits.

Conshohocken translates to “pleasant valley” or “elegant land.” And Cinnaminson, that street that falls off the Ridge at the 5th District building, could either mean “rock island” or “sweet water.”

And my favorite place name? By translation, it’s Tulpehocken, the name of a creek and both street and train station in Germantown. That translates as “land of turtles,” as the turtle was sacred to the Lenape, all of us riding on the back of a giant turtle, the image that Roxborough often uses to describe itself, a la that mural above the 7-Eleven on Ridge. We all live on Tulpehocken.

And we all live in Lenapehoking, the ancestral lands of the Lenape, a people wrongly renamed the Delaware. The Schuylkill Center acknowledges that our 340-acre forest was once the haunts of the Lenape, and we would like to weave that story back into our landscape, and find more ways to connect more of us to that untold story.

I’ll continue to share what I discover with you all.




A Climate Striker Laments, “We Had to Stop our Education to Teach you a Lesson”

By Mike Weilbacher and Cyan Cuthbert ’23

gear-up-sept-20-27 On September 20, 2019, millions of people– most of them school-age children– engaged in a climate strike, leaving work or school to protest the lack of adult action on climate change. Looking for a student’s perspective on the issue, I approached Roxborough’s acclaimed Saul High School to find a student who might have participated in the climate strike at City Hall. 

Assistant principal Gabriel Tuffs steered me to Cyan Cuthbert, a 14-year-old freshman who lives in Germantown. She elected to leave school that day to join the millions of kids across the planet who climate-striked. I offered her a chance to write to tell you why she is worried about climate change.

Her reference to 12 years comes from a widely reported UN study that gives that number as the timetable to significantly lower carbon emissions– missing that window of opportunity would be hugely problematic, say the authors. But that number is now often used in discussions of climate change as a benchmark, like in the Democratic debates. The reference to Lil Dicky will likely pass most readers by. A Cheltenham native, Lil Dicky is a comic-rapper who released a video, “We Love the Earth,” featuring many prominent entertainers– Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Hart, to name a few– as animated animals in an ear-wormy song that steers kids like Cyan to a website with additional information. Not a fan of the weirdly R-rated song, but whatever it takes.

So with very little editing and in her own voice, here is a Saul freshman writing about her future.  Thank you, Cyan– and thank you Gabe.

I was born in Germany November 26, 2004 at 8:28 a.m. That’s when the world started. Endless Possibilities, the world revolved around me. I had my whole life ahead of me dot-dot-dot now I only have 12 more years.

Both my parents were in the Army. My mom did 13 years, my dad did 10. During this time, my parents did a lot of traveling. They’ve been to Hawaii, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and tons more. I’ve been to a few of those places with them when I was younger but I can barely remember; that’s why I want to travel the world when I get older and graduate college. If I’m doing my math right and I only do four years in college, I’ll be out when I’m 24 or 25. In 12 years I’ll be 26.

I’m pretty sure Lil Dicky said it best in his “We Love the Earth” website when he said, “Everything we do on Earth is having a chain reaction.” Everything we do affects the world in a cycle of things. Once you realize how bad it is you’ll see the sadness behind it too. When the world gets warmer, which is happening, the polar ice caps melt and the water goes into the ocean, then the ocean level rises, then floods occur and people die. The people that survived lose shelter and food. Meanwhile things in the ocean stop working right and people that rely on the ocean for fishing can’t get to it. The reality is they will die of starvation too.

Something crazy I learned throughout this whole thing was that if we let the temperature get only 1 degree Celsius hotter than it is right now there will be no turning back, because if we do, the damage is done.

  The reason I joined this movement and a thing that pushes me to do better is knowing that I am able to save people. We are able to save each other, ourselves, and our beautiful Earth.

September 20, 2019 was the climate strike. I saw so many kids, adults, and elderly people there. It felt so good to know I was a part of the change. It still isn’t right though. It doesn’t make sense, how come we had to stop our education to teach you guys a lesson. I want everybody to know that not all heroes wear capes. You can help and do your part. Every Saturday at 12 p.m. go outside to a nearby park or on your block and just pick up trash. Take a bus or ride your bike to school or work to save gas and help stop polluting our air. That’s what some of my teachers do at W.B. Saul High School.

I’m going to use Lil Dicky’s basketball analogy. We’re in the 4th quarter, a timeout has been called and we have the ball. We need a plan because we only have one more shot, if we make it we win (survival), but if we miss the shot we lose (death). We can win the game if we change three things; how we create our food energy and nature watch all of the videos to find out how.



Wildlife In Winter – When Things get Rough

By Rebecca Michelin, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation

clinic1With “baby season” for most species beginning in early spring,  juveniles should be mostly self-sufficient by the time the fall and winter rolls around, and be able to sustain themselves through the colder months or to make a long migration south. As they learn to navigate the world without parental support and guidance, the first fall and winter can be brutal on young animals. 

The winter months are the time of year when we see some of the most challenging cases at the Wildlife Clinic, and many times they are a result of young, inexperienced animals who are struggling to figure things out. 

Juvenile predatory birds, like hawks and owls, are common clinic patients as young birds become weak and emaciated if they struggle to feed themselves with their inexpert hunting skills. Prey species like mice and voles are more active during the warmer parts of the day in winter, so predators are more likely to be hunting during those times. In the winter months, rush hour commutes take place during twilight or after dark, reducing visibility and increasing chances of vehicle collisions with wildlife; many raptors rely on carion when their hunts are unsuccessful, and they are attracted to roadkill for an easy meal which makes them more susceptible to being hit by passing cars.

However, a bird of prey on the ground may not necessarily need help, as it is normal for these birds to remain motionless in one spot while resting, digesting a meal, or watching for prey. A hawk or owl on the ground could be injured, or he may have just caught some prey, or have just eaten a large meal and need to rest before flying away.

If you see a bird of prey on the ground or on a low perch, slowly approach the bird (no closer than 10 feet away) and make a note of how they respond as you get closer- do they hop or flutter away, or do they stand still? Look for signs of injury such as blood, a wing or leg held at an odd angle, or heavy breathing. If no signs of injury are visible, simply monitor the bird from a distance. If you see any signs that the bird is sick or hurt, if the bird does not respond at all to your presence, or if the bird does not fly away after 1-2 hours, contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately for further advice.

While it is never advisable to offer food to injured wild animals, it is especially critical not to feed animals that are underweight or starving. When an animal has gone without food for a long time, their digestive system slows down, their stomach capacity shrinks, and they are unable to process food. Once they reach this point, they need professional help to slowly reintroduce food in a controlled way, or it can be fatal. You can’t tell if an animal has entered starvation mode just by looking at them, so the safest option is to bring them to a rehabilitator for a proper assessment.

Have a question about wildlife?. Questions can be sent by email to For wildlife emergencies,  call the clinic hotline at 215-482-7300 option x2. 


Year of Action: Join us in Taking Action

By Mike Weilbacher

contratsting planet (1)The New Year 2020 promises to be pivotal on a number of fronts, but especially the environment. The increasing urgency of the climate crisis has sparked higher levels of activism by new, youth-led groups like the Sunrise Movement. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s lonely 2018 climates strike in front of the Swedish parliament have blossomed into climate strikes of millions of kids skipping school across the world.

The presidential election near the year’s end promises to be not only loud, but will have an out sized impact on environmental policy, with major implications for how America, and thus the world, responds to climate change.

But 2020 also marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Philadelphia was center stage for Earth Days in 1970 and 1990, and the global holiday is now credited with launching the environmental movement. Celebrated by over a billion people each year, this April’s Earth Day promises to be huge.

In recognition of all of the above, the Schuylkill Center declares 2020 as our Year of Action and will flavor much of our programming– including our own Earth Day festival– around this concept. Nature Preschoolers will take relevant actions; our Art Department will join in the fun too. So will Land and Facilities, and many programs coming from our Education team.

We’re also asking you to take personal actions at home and in your workplace. 

How can you personally assist in cooling the climate and preserving species?

We assume as a member and friend of our Center, you likely recycle and conserve water and electricity, probably try to create less waste. So what next? Say you’d like to step up in our Year of Action– thank you! What might you do?

Share your plans at




Natural Selections: New Year’s resolutions from the Roxborough community

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director


2020 will see my continued fight for redistricting reform and to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to get good policy in place.” State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-194

With the calendar pages turning over to a new year – and a new decade to boot – it’s time for our annual roundup of New Year’s resolutions from community leaders across Roxborough.

Celeste Hardeseter, president of the Central Roxborough Civic Association, said that, “A century and more ago, people planted trees in their yards that, 100 years later, became magnificent mature specimens. Now, as these are becoming geriatric, we are seeing more and more of them cut down. I would like to persuade property owners to plant new trees, not the pretty little things that flower and mature in 20 years, but trees that are gifts to future generations of people and wildlife who live in Roxborough.

“So my ‘dream resolution’ for 2020 would be to see 100 large canopy hardwood trees planted throughout the community – oak, beech, elm, hackberry, horse chestnut, linden and Kentucky coffeetree, etc. – plus 50 large evergreens, which provide visual screening and year-round shade, like white pine, arborvitae, spruce, etc. I would love if people let the CRCA know what they have planted. Write to us at Planting trees is such an important contribution to the entire community.”

Rich Giordano heads the Upper Roxborough Civic Association, and told me, “As a relative newcomer to the neighborhood (here ‘only’ 20 years) but also someone who has a genuine reverence for the unique history of our area, I’m focused on ensuring that what is important and vital is not lost and hopefully is in fact strengthened in the face of the very real changes that we are undergoing.”

Their compatriot Jamie Wyper is president of the Residents of the Shawmont Valley Association, and echoes Rich’s comments when he chimed in, “My resolution for the year is to keep reminding our community why we live in this corner for Philadelphia – for the beautiful landscape, the wildlife, the peace and quiet, the uniqueness – and why the only way to preserve it is to forego a small amount of personal benefit for the sake of the greater and lasting community benefit of preservation. This means sticking to the zoning code and not seeking variances to build larger, more, or inappropriately. Once we allow that, it is a short leap to maximal development and the permanent loss of this special place.”

Tom Landsmann, president of the new Roxborough-Manayunk Conservancy, offered that, “My goal for 2020 is clarity and balance. Clarity to determine what’s important and a better work-life balance. Nature will be my tool to help me realize these simple goals. Last year our RMC had a very productive year. We engaged many new community park stewards, and introduced them to like-minded people and new green pocket parks in the area. This year, we’d like to continue to expand our community stewardship network, continue to improve our little green spaces, and continue to promote the benefits of native plantings with high wildlife value. Every member of our community should be exposed to nature. Nature brings clarity, mindfulness and balance to a busy modern life.”

According to James Harry Calamia, the executive director of the Roxborough Development Corp., good things are literally brewing here.

“As our Roxborough 2020 Plan’s life cycle comes to a close,” he said, “the beginning of this year welcomes an opportunity for reflection and analysis before new planning efforts unfold. The new decade also presents a fresh start for new business partnerships. The completion and opening of New Ridge Brewing Co., Night Shift Brewing, Vault Coworking as well as Ichiban Asian Restaurant are some of the most anticipated for the year.” His comments remind me that I need to have lunch at the White Yak soon, and I look forward to toasting the new breweries when they open!

Aaliyah Green Ross directs the education program of the Schuylkill Center and when I asked her what her New Year’s resolution was, she laughed. “I already broke my resolution! I resolved to eliminate single-use plastics from my life, and just bought grapes. I realized they come wrapped in plastic bags, and when I went to the Wawa, they wrapped my sandwich in plastic. So I’m going to redouble my efforts to reduce plastics – I’ve got my metal straws and my reusable produce bags, so I’m going to get better!”

Rebecca Michelin runs the Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center, the only clinic of its kind in the city, and she was philosophical about her resolution. She wanted to “recognize and be understanding of our personal and professional limitations. Understanding that, as caregivers and humans, we can only do so much, and whether big or small, positive or negative, everything we do has an impact on those around us.”

State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-194 said, “My goal is to continue to fulfill my commitment to my constituents to have an ongoing dialogue with them regarding state-related policy. It is the best way I know to truly ‘represent’ the 194th. Town halls (90 to date) and new in 2019, my book club gathering, are just two of the ways I fulfill this commitment.

Councilman Curtis Jones, our representative in City Hall, told me his “resolution is short and simple: talking less; fixing more!” We agree, at least with the fixing part.

And Autumn Goin, the kindergartner whose father directs the Land & Facilities Department at the Schuylkill Center, told her dad that her “revolution” is to “listen to more music.”

Which is also what we need in 2020: more revolutions! Amen to all of the above, and thanks to our community leaders for their extraordinary work on our behalf.

Nature Preschool meets our pileated woodpecker

By Leigh Ashbrook

Editor’s note: one of the largest– and rarest– birds in the Schuylkill Center forest is the pileated woodpecker, our largest woodpecker with a wood chipper for a beak. We’ve seen them here this winter, and Nature Preschool has become enchanted by them. One of our teachers, Leigh Ashbrook, also a great birder, teaches about birds in the school, and writes about her students meeting them recently.

pileated chris petrakPhoto: Chris Petrak

Sixteen Nature Preschoolers are meandering along the Widener Trail toward the bird blind, flanked by trees of the second growth forest. Out of the woods on their left an emphatic Kukukukukukukukuk rings through the woods. One of the teachers calls out, “What do you think made that sound?” As the children turn their ears toward the source of the raucous call, the teacher then calls out, “We hear you, pileated woodpecker! Where are you?” Some of the preschoolers laugh, some repeat the question. The class is treated to the sight of a pileated woodpecker flying through the woods, long, slow wingbeats and its great size making it easy to find and follow until it disappears past Founders Grove. 

Along the Widener Trail is one of the locations here at the Schuylkill Center where hikers and birders can often find these marvelous woodpeckers.

Some of the locations that the pileateds tend to frequent are some of the very tall trees beside Fire Pond, and they will announce their presence with their kukukuk call, or perhaps their irregular, sonorous drumming on a dead tree. We have also heard the pileateds in the woods surrounding the Butterfly Meadow, working the loop of trees by the maintenance shed, the lower section of the upper fields trail leading to the ravine loop, and as far down the slope as Polliwog Pond. The most delightful sightings of this striking crow-sized woodpecker for our Nature Preschoolers, however, where they have been most visible and accessible to the young feeder watchers, has been at the suet feeders just outside the Sweet Gum classroom on the back side of the building. There the preschoolers are participating in Project FeederWatch, and both the male and female pileated woodpeckers have made appearances at eye level and even on the ground at times, amazing the children and adults. One cannot remain unimpressed by the sight of these marvelous birds! 

ExtremeTerrain makes gift to Schuylkill Center

ExtremeTerrain’s Clean Trail Initiative program was launched in 2015.  This program seeks to reward local clubs and organizations with small, project-specific, grants to be used for trail maintenance and restoration. In the approximately 4 years since it started, the program has given out $21,650 in trail project grant funds.  The Schuylkill Center is very grateful to ExtremTerrain for their support.  Click here to learn more about their initiative. 5XWMuX-A