50 Facts, 50 Days

By Anna Lehr Mueser, Public Relations Manager

As we wrap up celebrations for our 50th anniversary, we’re posting one fact each day for the 50 days leading up to final celebratory event of the year: Jubilee in the Grove.  Each week, we’ll update this post with the most recently posted facts, as well as extra details.  Follow all the posts on Facebook or Twitter with #50years

50 Facts, 50 Days

1. On average, our Nature Preschoolers spend 3 hours/day playing outdoors, 42 times more than the average American child.

2. In one year, the Schuylkill Center’s forest absorbs 10,200,000 lbs of CO2, producing 7, 480,000 lbs of oxygen. This is equivalent to taking 850 cars off the road for one year.

3. The Schuylkill Center celebrated its one-millionth visitor in 1987.

4. There are 1,000 ceramic bees in Native Pollinator Garden, Maggie Mills, Ben Mills, and Marguerita Hagan’s environmental art installation.

5. In 1988, we changed our name from the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

6. A short scene from the 1998 film Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey was shot at the Schuylkill Center. No flowers blooming when crews came to shoot, so the background of the scene is filled with small white paper flowers.

7. The word Schuylkill comes from early Dutch explorers and translates to “hidden river.”

8. Since it opened in 1987, our wildlife clinic has treated approximately 75,000 sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals.

9. Since its start in 2009, Toad Detour has helped 10,600 adult toads cross Port Royal Avenue.

10. The longest continual gardener in our community gardens has been working his plot since the gardens opened in 1974 – 41 years.

11. For 35 years staff and volunteers have conducted a bird census at the Schuylkill Center, identifying a total of 100 different species of bird.

12. An 1895 Philadelphia atlas shows 14 homesteads on what is now the Schuylkill Center’s land. You can find many ruins from these homesteads, and others, in our forests.

13. Since 2002, our afterschool program, Monkey Tail Gang, has provided 474 kids with 6,175 hours of free play in our forests and fields

14. Since the summer of 2013, the Center has been powered by 100% PA renewable wind power via Philadelphia’s Energy Co-op. Our solar panels also provide 10 – 20% of the 10,000 kilowatt hours we use each month.

15. The largest tree in our forest is a tulip tree that is over four feet in diameter. In fact, 31 of the 56 largest trees on our property are tulip trees.

16. In 2000, the PA Department of Environmental Protection issued “Earthwise Envirocards” featuring PA environmental leaders; among them is Dick James, our first executive director. Also featured? Rachel Carson and Gifford Pinchot.

17. In 2013, we opened Pennsylvania’s first nature-based preschool, now expanded to three classrooms.

18. At its height, the Schuylkill Center’s children’s natural history library was designated by The Library of Congress as the largest of its kind in the northeast.

19. There are 5 species of salamanders observed at the Schuylkill Center, living in and around ponds, wetlands, and forests. They are: northern dusky salamander, northern two-lined salamander, red-spotted newt, eastern red-backed salamander, and northern red salamander.

20. Since the program’s founding in 2000, 239 artists have participated in environmental art shows at the Schuylkill Center.

21. Our first ever school program was a bird walk for 5th graders at the Chestnut Hill Academy, led by Dick James in 1966.

22. The last time a spring peeper was observed at the Schuylkill Center was in 2002.

23. Since the first native plant sale in 2004, we’ve sold 19,346 native plants, supporting native animals and insects.

24. Our five largest tulip trees each absorb and filter 23,095 gallons of stormwater a year.

25. So far this year, we’ve treated 1,000 baby birds at our wildlife clinic.

26. Since 2012 we have partnered with the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, providing 86 scholarships for kids in families that are transitioning out of homelessness to attend our out of school time programs.

27. Founding executive director Dick James served the Schuylkill Center for 31 years. He is buried at the Schuylkill Center.

28. If you look at the Schuylkill Center’s forests, 80% of the plants you see are non-native species. This fact raised some eyebrows, so let’s dig into it a little bit.  If you count the individual plants you see in the forest, 80% of those plants are non-native.  But if you look at the distribution of plants, the forest canopy tends to be native trees while the herbaceous layer has many non-native species.  Over the past five decades, climate change and other factors have given advantages to non-native species, which have spread throughout the region.  Each year our land stewardship team and dozens of volunteers remove hundreds of invasive plants.

29. Before our visitor center was built, we worked out of River House, a 19th century house overlooking the Schuylkill River. River House burned in 2004.

30. Since opening in 1974, over 800 gardeners have worked plots at the Schuylkill Center’s Organic Community Gardens.

31. So far this year, volunteers have donated 10,000 hours to the Schuylkill Center. Actually, each year 400 volunteers donate more than 14,000 hours.

32. Every time we get 1 inch of rain, Stacy Levy’s art work RainYard captures and slows over 3,000 gallons of water. With the average of 40 inches of rain Philadelphia gets per year, it captures and slows nearly 100,000 gallons.

33. During the 2014 – 2015 school year we held 145 school programs, reaching 4,571 students. About half of our school program time is spent with students from Philadelphia public schools, supported by grant funding to offer free programs to the schools.

34. A 2010 permanent conservation easement protects the Schuylkill Center’s land, ensuring this place will remain natural forever.

35. There are five ponds and one wetland pond at the Schuylkill Center, all built to foster biodiversity in our forest.

36. Our three longest staff members are Beatrice Kelly at 15 years, Claire Morgan at 14 years, and Camila Rivera-Tinsley at 12 years.

37. The Schuylkill Center’s beloved Pine Grove was planted by staff and volunteers in the 1970s. The Pine Grove was originally intended for timber harvesting but has become a treasured play area and plant and wildlife habitat.

38. In the past 50 years, our forests have protected this land from the erosion of about 55 inches of soil. For reference, in many parts of Pennsylvania, there is less than 60 inches of soil above the bedrock.

39. In 1986 Dick James, our first director, received a Best of Philly Award for his weather reports on WFLN. Current director Mike Weilbacher also has a radio connection: he’s been on WXPN’s Kids Corner since 1988.

40. The stone ruin beside our Spring House Pond was part of a 19th century homestead. The house ruins are in the woods above the spring house and the barn stood near Cattail Pond.

41. Just after WWII, the United Nations almost made its headquarters on the property that would become the Schuylkill Center. At the last minute, Rockefeller came forward with the funds to purchase the UN’s current site in Manhattan.

42. Our driveway, which extends half a mile from Hagy’s Mill Road to our Visitor Center, is an old farm road dating back to the 19th century, if not earlier.  Oddly, Google Maps has occasionally listed our driveway as Cathedral Road.

43. 2015 the Schuylkill Center and City Year Philadelphia began science programs for students ages 8 -14, helping prepare them for STEM jobs and fostering environmental stewardship.

44. Jubilee Grove is our newest planting, celebrating our anniversary year.  In it are 175 canopy trees, 8 understory trees, 24 shrubs, and 14 wildflowers donated by friend of the Schuylkill Center.  Included are red chokeberries, sugar maples, arrowwood, and sweet birch.

45. Zya Levy of WE THE WEEDS worked with 183 children and 30 adults to create her LandLab installation, Interwoven, from invasive vines.

46. As climate changes, many formerly southern birds have become common sightings at the Schuylkill Center, as their ranges moves northward.  They include black vultures, Carolina chickadees, and red-bellied woodpeckers.

47. Our wildlife clinic treats several endangered species, including endangered peregrine falcons, American Bitterns, short-eared owls, and king rails.  In fact, clinic has treated over 150 species of wild animals since opening in 1987.  Interestingly, our clinic tends to treat more endangered species with our location in Philadelphia than other clinics in more rural parts of the state.  The reason for this is primarily the abundance of wetlands here, especially at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum; wetlands are incredibly important habitats for many endangered species. #50years

48. Each year we welcome 1,600 people to our seasonal festivals, Naturepalooza, the Great American Backyard Campout, Halloween Hikes & Hayrides, and Winterfest.  Naturepalooza is our single biggest one-day event and Halloween Hikes our biggest weekend each year.  Incidentally, Mike Weilbacher, our director, led our first Earth Day celebration in 1983. #50years

49. In 1965 a botanical survey identified 266 native plants growing at the Schuylkill Center.  Oblique milkvine is  rare native plant that wasn’t here then and is today; it’s an endangered plant in the milkweed family.

50. Our 50th anniversary time capsule includes: ash tree seeds (here’s hoping there are still ash trees here in 25 years), soil from our forest, and several unique sculptures created just for the time capsule.