heaven on earth is home

It looks like a painting. But it is real life.  Taken a short time ago over in Westtown.  I made my last trip probably to Pete’s Produce for the season.  (They have the most fabulous pumpkins this year, but I digress.)

Heaven on earth is where we call home here in Chester County.  Traveling through the scarred battle zone of raped land of the Sunoco Logistics Pipeline horror show to get to Pete’s really made an impression today.

We as residents need to do a better job advocating for Chester County herself.  Election Day will be here in a blink.  The power of your vote is one of the greatest ways to be heard.  Those who are NOT stewards of the land need to GO.

We need more land preservation and land conservation and less development.  We need to see what can be done to save what is left of our beautiful landscapes, including from the damn pipelines.

We have an agricultural and equine heritage that needs to be saved.  We have waterways and woods and wildlife and even the humble honey bee depending on us.

We can’t just talk about it and we certainly can’t depend upon the Chester County Planning Commission.  Pretty pie-graphs and surveys just take up space on a website.  What are they doing, really?  What are the Chester County Commissioners doing, really?  Planned photo ops are good for politics, what do they actually do for all of us? The all like to say they are helping plan our future in Chester county but I ask again exactly whose futures are the planning? Mine, yours, or theirs and those who make lots of political contributions?

I was down on the Main Line a few times over the past few weeks.  I realized once again how I truly now dislike where I used to call home.  And it is not just the great pretenders to what now passes as the “social” scene.  It’s the density, the roads, the overall frantic pace and congestion.  I realized how I literally exhale when I start to feel the open sky, fields, and forest of Chester County every time I am coming home.

But we are at such risk of losing that. We are at serious risk of losing Chester County.  From the history to the land, forests, fields, water (wells, streams, lakes, everything), to the old farm houses and barns to other historic structures — we have to act.

As my friend Mindy Rhodes has wisely said via M. Jankowski “If not you, then who?”  and John Lewis  “If not now, then when?”

Think about it.  Start with who you vote for.  And what you vote for.

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bishop tube plan met with a packed east whiteland zoning boardroom

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The developers did not show up with very many copies of site plans.  I do not think they were expecting a completely packed room which included people standing for the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board meeting on February 27th.

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It was so amazing to see all the people turn out.  General Warren Village and General Warren Village supporters did an AMAZING job.

17078041_1462119317134348_485323212_nAnd they had a powerful and unexpected ally in the room: Maya K. van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper.

The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decision-making table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has its main office in Bristol, PA and can be found on the web at www.delawareriverkeeper.org. van Rossum’s blog can be found at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/blog/ – they have a Water Watch hotline and well, in an era of David vs. Goliath, they give “David” an edge.

Maya was an incredible addition  to last night, and I will get to that later. (she is FIERCE!)

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We did have one of the three supervisors in attendance last evening, which I found heartening.

East Whiteland also sent a solicitor to represent at the zoning meeting on Bishop Tube.

Here are some notes taken on the fly – so feel free to add to them or correct:

  • Board of Supervisors responded last evening via attorney to concerns. Township is closely monitoring remediation, impact of remediation, standards and monitoring of remediation etc etc.
  • Township wants safer environment. Township right now in opposition of variance according to lawyer unless certain conditions met with Township.
  • DEP has approved conditions*  BUT township reviewing. BOS is reviewing with EAC and then they will decide whether to object to variance request.
  • March 15 special meeting being asked for by Zoning. The meeting (hearing) was ultimately continued to March 15, 2017 at 7:15 PM  
  • * “Conditions” referred to above Developer expert is talking about conditions discussed with DEP- didn’t catch all – witness for developer was speed speaking:
    ~ Establish a separate environmental escrow associated with development $20 k
    ~ Non refundable deposit to future HOA
    ~ Applicant will remediate 3 major hotspots in accordance with scope of work submitted to DEP – digging out soil as per Act 2. But it isn’t Act 2
    ~No disturbance in 3 soil hot spots until remediation complete (New construction?)
    ~ Applicant will install vapor mitigation systems. Most stringent available designed by engineer. Review said systems, maintain?
    ~ Developer would obtain stormwater permit – county/state – did not catch acronym
    ~developer will provide access to DEP etc
    ~ utilities will be developed to prohibit vapor migration/ groundwater migration
    ~environmental covenant
    ~ developer will comply with local zoning
    ~ developer will document remediation
    ~ until 3 hot spots remediated no construction of residential units.
    ~ developer would submit demolition plans to township and DEP

(NOTE: very abridged version of above – expert was speaking so very quickly and I don’t take dictation professionally so I did my best – I know I missed one of the conditions – feel free to add or clarify in comments.  It would be helpful if media had covered meeting, but I did not see any media there at all.)

  • Something about collecting storm water and capture and release to stream? Not sure if I heard that right . ZHB has concerns about retaining wall and safety- 20+ storm water “systems” – all release to stream. What environmental impact does that have considering existing toxicity of site? How is water cleaned? Whose job will it be to stay on top of that?
  • Final stormwater discharge into / near emergency access so does that mean General Warren gets water?
  • GWV residents are pointing out a shallow stream expected to take developer’s stormwater. Is GWV in part going to be part of stormwater management plan? They say no construction vehicles on village way (developer)?
  • Maya (Delaware Riverkeeper) asking about volume reduction and other things relating to creeks. Asking about correspondence on sampling between developer and DEP. Asking about TCE staying in place?
  • Residents questioning stormwater retention basin(s) and retaining wall.
  • More questions on stormwater runoff into stream and does stream have capacity to handle it?
  • Vapor intrusion being discussed by older gentleman- potential cancer cluster – people with cancer in General Warren Village? (couldn’t hear all of it clearly)
  • ZHB kept quizzing on removing top soil, Remediation , etc
  • Elevation from General Warren Village to retention walls eye level according to developer witness? Residents asking what they would see from Village Way? Someone from General Warren remarked about being able to see from “bathroom windows”
  • Maya the Delaware Riverkeeper talked about the planting of trees and trees they were removing – good point as developers tend to remove and replace NOT with the same size plantings.  And they spoke of riparian buffers, but not what they consisted of or if they would be substantial.
  • Keith Hartman who worked at Bishop Tube is asking questions. He is extremely knowledgeable about site. He spoke about how they used to “dispose” of the toxic chemicals in one part of site in the old days (sounded like they just dumped stuff kind of wherever?)
  • Mr Hartman pointing out toxic hotspots – see dark grey areas – and asking about mineral salts.16997882_1656917767655212_7768959074626449609_n

 

 

  • Mr. Hartman asking about sampling near old parking lots that were near spill. Not sure but it might have been that 1981 incident?

1981-bishop-tube-acid-spill

  • A gentleman (I guess investigator?) from PA DEP   visited Mr. Hartman recently – Marinelli or Martinelli? (Not sure but found a Martinelli listed HERE.)

16996122_1656917777655211_6973859171944418389_nHere are  articles where Mr. Hartman was in the paper – he knows the site SO well:

For Bishop Tube workers, danger lurked for decades

 By Anne Pickering Daily Local

 

Bishop Tube site possibly up for development

POSTED: 07/26/15, 6:47 PM EDT

“Don’t let them blow smoke up your tailpipe,” said Keith Hartman, “those mineral salts must be cleaned up.”

Hartman worked for Bishop Tube when the plant was still in operation. He, like many neighbors who attended the meeting, are concerned of possible health risks to potential residents if the site is not cleaned up properly.

 

In January there was a follow up article in Daily Local about Bishop Tube:

Plans to develop contaminated East Whiteland site resubmitted

POSTED: 01/25/17, 2:09 PM EST

…..When asked what kind of remediation the site needs to undergo before construction can begin, Virginia Cain, a DEP spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the former tubing plant will need soil and groundwater remediation in accordance with cleanup standards set forth in Act 2.

Act 2, also known as the Land Recycling Program encourages “the voluntary cleanup and reuse of contaminated commercial and industrial sites,” according to the DEP.

Cain wrote that the standards in Act 2 can include both statewide health standards and site-specific standards.

When asked if the site is considered a “Superfund” site, Cain wrote that “Superfund” sites refer to a federal program, but that the Bishop Tube site “is currently on the Pennsylvania Priority List and under the authority of the DEP’s HSCA (Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act) program, which is similar to the federal Superfund program.”

17022164_1656917744321881_1116283631204593680_nNow one of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred between Maya The Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the developer witnesses (some sort of engineer I thought).  It was at the end of the meeting before they called it to continue March 15th.

I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:

Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?

Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so  I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your  communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”

 

Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”

 

Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”

 

Witness “That is correct.  Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”

 

He (witness)  goes on to explain liability and  an old consent order (??is that right???)  with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties.  He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?

 

Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek.  They believe their  soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.

 

I do not think enough monies being set aside by developer to pay for experts East Whiteland may need to hire are much because experts are expensive – environmental lawyers and environmental engineers. Monies quoted could disappear quite quickly – those experts bill expensively, right? And what about any monies for future HOA? How does East Whiteland know if THAT is sufficient?

Other questions that  I have include the fire department – as the plans are currently drawn up are there any indications from East Whiteland Fire Department about cartways and whatever you call them? Will all fire apparatus be able to navigate site?  I feel that this  is VERY important – it is not just abut emergency access from General Warren, but will ALL of their apparatus safely navigate the plans as currently available? Those big rigs need room!

A related aside – here are the LLCs on the developer side:

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As I said previously, O’Neill knows how to do brownfield developments, but what about Benson Companies? I can only find Benson on Houzzz, no current website.  No mention of Bishop Tube on O’Neill’s website so that is somewhat concerning and want to know why? Two words: Linden Hall. Remember when Benson was thought to have been the savior of old Linden Hall? If they received their approvals for townhouses at Linden Hall, how they were going to restore Linden Hall itself as a new office for them? What did we see instead?  Wasn’t it selling approved plans to Pulte and no rehabilitation thus far only minimum maintenance?

And then there is the issue brewing in Tredyffrin Pattye Benson alerted everyone to. Historic Howelleville being their location for yet a total community destroying cram plan? And what of how Radnor residents feel about Benson?  I have to ask can Benson actually be trusted here? Or will residents go through all the heartache and meetings to have these plans sold off to someone else?

I do not recall last evening that the developer’s attorney got into the whys of it all concerning WHY the developer is seeking zoning variances, so will it be the battle cry of “economic hardship”? Or, they can’t build without a variance which would increase density in an already dense plan? And why is any developer’s potential economic hardship a burden a community getting a plan inflicted upon them not by their desire in the first place?

This site is going to be developed, I am not arguing that.  I have never argued that.  But it is a very toxic site because of the TCE and whatever else was left behind and is lodged in the land, the aquifer. How the site gets developed has always concerned me and I ask again, is this the best use for the property?

What of impact on the school district?  How are a few more hundred to potentially few thousand kids from this plan combined with Atwater and any other development large or small going to affect the school district? Has the school district weighed in on this?

Traffic lights proposed?  Who is paying for that if variance is waived? The previous zoning is in place to help preserve open space or farms or industrial from being over developed.

And what kinds of complementary businesses will be added to the surrounding area to support these new homes? Will that zoning need to be changed too?  What is it costing East Whiteland residents in legal fees for all of this now (let alone the future)? Will this plan be one that is truly economically viable for East Whiteland or become another millstone around East Whiteland’s proverbial neck?

Why always townhouses instead of single family homes?  Lighting and noise? How will this development affect General Warren Village with regard to those issues?

I do believe that the Zoning Hearing Board is weighing this all carefully, but I would say that residents MUST keep up the pressure.  Packing the boardroom last evening was a great start.  But there is a while to go.

I have done my best to relay my meeting notes accurately.  Others may add to them.  Of course it would be helpful if the media took an interest. And it would be helpful to hear what development happy Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission thinks? Does he have an opinion?  He was around serving in Lower Merion when ROHO and O’Neill’s now defunct Rock Hill Road project came about, so realistically he knows a similarly dense plan THERE was horribly unpopular as was the B.S. developer driven zoning overlay that allowed it, doesn’t he?

And what of the PA DEP? Don’t they have an obligation to make the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) freaking clean up the Bishop Tube site???  After all the developer will not be responsible for all that should be done so why when discussion of clean up started here so long ago, it has never happened? Remember that Law360 article from 2014 in addition? Or the memorandum from the case that was in Federal Court over this site most recently? How is it a Federal judge did not get the gravity of Bishop Tube?

There you have it in conclusion – the worst part about Bishop Tube is the longer this goes on the more we have to ask ourselves how we got here and what exactly is the PA DEP going to do about it, let alone the EPA on a Federal Level?  Or what about state elected officials? Duane Milne and Andy Dinniman? Duane Milne was all Mr. Press Release in 2007 but what has he done for anyone lately?

Where is Erin Brocovitch and Tom Girardi when you need him? Call me crazy but I think General Warren Village and neighboring Malvern Borough residents deserve the best thing possible with regard to this plan, don’t you?

Sigh…to be continued….feel free to leave comments anyone who was in that packed room last night.

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thoughts on the future of development and chester county

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Random thought I had today…

There are so many people upset by pending development on properties including but not limited to Earles Lake (Newtown Twp Delaware County)  Crebilly (Westtown Township, Chester County), Woodlawn (Concord Twp Delaware County), and Don Guanella (Marple Twp. Delaware County). I applaud those amazing residents fighting the good fight in their respective communities!

But ask anyone in land protection about just how hard it is to turn things around once land is under agreement of sale with a developer. There is very little the township or land trust or individuals, or groups, or anyone can do at that point.

But…. if residents could take some of that good energy and fight to protect vulnerable parcels that are NOT yet under agreement of sale, then they might just make some progress and have a chance to save community open space, arable farmland, and viewsheds.

And as you ponder, please think outside the box when investigating property that’s vulnerable.

For example I am told, and many people are shocked to learn, that places like Tyler Arboretum (650 acres) and Newlin Grist Mill are not actually completely protected land and all or pieces of those properties could be sold if their boards decided they wanted to. (Or if they were desperate for money.)

This is often the challenge for public gardens and arboreta…An example would be a conservation easement  that was put on on the Schuylkill Center a few years ago, and if memory serves it took forever to negotiate but that board was concerned with their own history of selling off chunks of the property over the years when times were lean.

What got me to thinking about this is the upcoming Crebilly Planning Commission Meeting where Toll is presenting. Westtown Township Planning Commission that has been scheduled this first  public meeting with Toll Brothers is reportedly Wednesday, November 16th at 6:30 PM and will be held at Stetson Middle School. (It is not on the Westtown website yet so I do not know if it is set in stone or not.)

I received the following from concerned Chester County resident Mindy Rhodes the following:

It is imperative that the community attend this meeting. It is imperative that you speak at this meeting. Your testimonies need to be on record. It doesn’t matter what township you are from- please show up!

In this meeting, Toll will present their plans and there will be much time for public comments. I have not seen the plans, but my understanding is this:

Toll has submitted 3 different plans:


1) Code Compliant Plan (approx. 320 units)
2) Single Waiver Plan (approx. 320 units) *Toll is requesting a waiver for the standard 60′ requirement in between buildings to 30′ instead
3) Maximum Bonus Density (approx. 400 units) *Toll will need to make their case to the Township to justify this by means of ‘improvements’


Other details:
*Development will be closer to the center of Crebilly leaving ‘open space’ around the exterior
*1 access will be on 202 south of Westminster Church
*2 access roads on West Pleasant Grove Road to align with Dunvegan and Hidden Pond Way
*1 access on 926 near Bridalwood
*No plans to access South New Street

 

This is how far we are.  And Westtown will be limited on what they can do.  Why? Because at the end of the day, municipalities are indeed limited by the Commonwealth’s bible that defines planning and zoning – The MPC or Municipalities Planning Code of Pennsylvania.

I have been saying it for years: quite simply put the MPC needs an overhaul. We need to re-define suburbs and exurbs. We need to better define and set up protections for historic preservation and land preservation, and so much more. We need to stop the death march of development across Chester County and Pennsylvania.

People have been contacting state and federally elected officials about plans like what we are about to see formerly unfold for Crebilly. Those officials like to say “we are so sorry, we can’t get involved in local issues.”

The hell they can’t.  Maybe they can’t change zoning, but they sure as hell can use their political stature to bring opposing sides to the table to perhaps explore other ideas.  That is part of why we elect them.  And when it comes to State Representatives and State Senators, if they can’t adopt our issues as theirs, time to vote for someone else AND they are the ones who can get the Municipalities Planning Code overhauled and updated…it’s in their job description!

We have a major election day coming up one week from today.  Reach out to candidates and ask them what they have done for us lately.  Like with issues over DEVELOPMENT (or pipelines through Chester County). They all can’t be about campaign donations.

We also need to get out message out CLEARLY to the Chester County Planning Commission.  To me it would also help if the person who headed it up actually LIVED in Chester County. A pro-development leader from Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County is not appropriate because HE DOESN’T LIVE HERE. Landscapes3 needs to actually reflect US not what someone else thinks is us.

Also to be considered is better knowing our history.  I learned something new about Crebilly the other day:

historical

Look, we have to do better.  We have to figure it out together. After all, Chester County deserves better.

Thanks for stopping by.

the announcement: natural lands trust regarding saving bryn coed

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Now that it has been announced, I can say that I have known for a few years that Natural Lands Trust was working on saving Bryn Coed.  I was asked to not say anything, so into the proverbial vault it went.  But I can’t say it is untrue that developers were sniffing around Bryn Coed’s 1500+ acres can I ?  After all, it is a magical piece of land that is almost mythical, isn’t it?

Here is the official press release:

One Step Closer to Preservation of Bryn Coed Farms

Media, Pa. – Natural Lands Trust announced today a major milestone in the non-profit land conservation organization’s effort to preserve 1,505 acres in northern Chester County known as Bryn Coed Farms.

 

On September 28, 2016, Natural Lands Trust and the current property owners, the Dietrich family, executed an Agreement of Sale for the property. Natural Lands Trust now has six months to conduct due diligence, including Phase II environmental testing.

 

The fate of the property has been the subject of much speculation over the years as development pressures have increased in the region. Located primarily in West Vincent Township, Chester County, with portions also in East and West Pikeland Townships, the property is one of the largest remaining undeveloped, unprotected tracts of land in the Greater Philadelphia region. Under current zoning, nearly 700 homes could be built on the property if it is not placed under protection.

 

Natural Lands Trust has been working with the Dietrichs for more than five years to conserve the land.

 

“It is too early to celebrate, but we are optimistic that much of this iconic property can be conserved,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “It’s a complex deal with many moving parts, but Bryn Coed is certainly worth fighting to save. It’s a community and ecological treasure.”

 

If successful, the deal would result in a 400-plus-acre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails that will be owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust. The preserve will be open to visitors, free of charge, just like other nature preserves owned by the regional conservation group—including the 112-acre Binky Lee Preserve in nearby Chester Springs. In addition, West Vincent Township is considering Natural Lands Trust’s offer to establish a 72-acre municipal park on the property.

 

The remainder of the property would be divided into large conservation properties, preserved by conservation easements, and sold to private individuals.

 

“The amount of land that can be permanently protected as a Natural Lands Trust preserve is dependent on the amount of funding we can raise. The cost of preserving the entirety of such a vast and valuable property is beyond the currently available resources. We will be seeking support from the public in the weeks and months ahead,” Morrison added.

 

In 2003, the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of the property. Various conservation and development options were explored but never came to a successful conclusion.

 

In recent years, several developers have been in negotiations with the Deitrichs, including Toll Brothers, which had proposed a 254-unit development on about one-quarter of the property.

 

Much of the property is actively farmed or in pasture. There are nearly 500 acres of mature woodlands on the property that are home to a myriad of songbirds and other wildlife. Generations of residents and visitors have enjoyed the pastoral views of Bryn Coed Farms.

 

The land also contains the headwaters to Pickering Creek, and is a high priority for source water protection. Bryn Coed Farms alone constitutes 17 percent of the remaining unprotected high-priority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.

 

Persons interested in receiving more information as the Bryn Coed Farms conservation effort progresses are invited to visit www.natlands.org/bryncoed and sign up for email updates. Those interested in learning more about the conservation properties that will be available for sale should contact Brian Sundermeir, Bryn Coed project manager, at 610-353-5587, ext. 237.

 

Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 43 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, some 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.

 

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

So, this is not yet quite a done deal. There are three municipalities and a lot of due diligence and environmental testing.  From what I am reading, not all of the land will be conserved (it’s a little unclear) ,  but one can hope and no matter what this is a heck of a lot more than anyone expected.

As I understand it, The NLT-owned preserve will be a “big chunk ” of Bryn Coed.  The remainder will be large conservation lots with easements on them and trail easements as well. The size of the preserve can grow if Natural Lands Trust gets more money towards the project.

To David Robinson and his family who own Crebilly, why can’t you look at something like this? You can afford to.

Ok I just wanted to put this out there as some thought my post from the other evening was fabricated. I do my homework, and it doesn’t get much more official than the press release from Natural Lands Trust. And this is THEIR hard work and no one else’s (because I know some who will try to take credit, and well it is not theirs to take.)

BRAVO NLT!  This is why I am a member and big believer in the Natural Lands Trust, they  do not just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  (Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission could learn something here, just saying.)

I am a member of Natural Lands Trust, and proudly so.  Please consider a membership. This is me asking incidentally, not them. Go out and enjoy the glorious weekend this weekend. This surely is an awesome way to start it!

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust