Schuylkill Center plans to permanently preserve Boy Scout Tract

December 7, 2022

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education today announced that preservation-minded donors have pledged a $3 million gift that will protect the entire 24-acre Boy Scout Tract from development in perpetuity. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, are making the gift with Vanguard Charitable.

This 24-acre parcel, originally given by one of the Center’s founding families, is named for a time when Scouts camped there, and is located along Port Royal Avenue, fronting on Eva Street. The donation requires the Schuylkill Center to place a conservation easement on the property, a legal agreement that eliminates all development rights on the site in perpetuity. 

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the donors,” said Christopher P. McGill, president of the Center’s Board of Trustees. “This gift will have a significant impact for generations to come.” 

“This is a watershed moment in our history, and we are so thankful to the donors for this, our largest gift, ever,” said Mike Weilbacher, the Center’s executive director.

“We will be able to parlay this $3 million gift into bigger and better things while addressing transformational initiatives, while at the same time responding to the community’s strong desire to preserve the Boy Scout Tract.”

McGill said the Center “is beginning a thorough, very thoughtful conversation on how we best leverage the gift–in our people, programming, and our campus, making us a world-class Center for generations to come.”

Elaine Kenig, Director of Communications and Strategy at Vanguard Charitable says, “We are honored to play a role in this grant supporting our local community. This extraordinary grant will enrich the region far into the future.”

The Center has engaged Natural Lands, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, to create the conservation easement. Currently, Natural Lands holds the easement on the Center’s 340-acre main campus, across Port Royal Avenue from the Boy Scout Tract property. 

“This is an important step for conservation in the city as development continues to replace green space,” says Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “We applaud the Schuylkill Center and the community for coming together to find this conservation solution.” 

The easement process is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

Since its founding in 1965, the Schuylkill Center has protected more than 400 acres of open space in Roxborough, including its main campus. Bounded by Port Royal Avenue, Hagys Mill Road, Spring Lane, and the Schuylkill River Trail, the Center’s programs are run on 340 acres of permanently protected land, the largest preserved private property in Philadelphia. 

“This land now joins all of our other protected open spaces in Upper Roxborough,” concluded Weilbacher.

The Center’s mission is to inspire meaningful connections between people and nature. Its staff offers a diverse menu of environmental education programs, including science-based school field trips, Nature Preschool, its pioneering environmental art program, a volunteer program, and land stewardship opportunities. The Center also operates the city’s only wildlife rehabilitation clinic, located on Port Royal Avenue near the tract.


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An aerial photo of the Boy Scout Tract, showing the Higher Ground church on Eva Street on the right and a 19th-century home on the left. Green Tree Run flows across the bottom of the photo.

Topographical map