skin in the game of pipelines?

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So I started looking at the interactive pipeline map again along with the pipeline website for Chester County set up by the Chester County Planning Commission. And it prompted an email to pipeline companies and the Chester County Planning Commission to clarify how we would possibly be affected where we live. ( I will note we have neighbors not so far away who have like three pipelines running through their property.)

“When I look at our mapping, which uses the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) that the Federal Government maintains, in conjunction with the pipeline operators, the western edge of your house is roughly 1,030 feet from the closest line, which is Interstate Energy, which is planned to be converted to natural gas.”

~ Carrie from Chester County Planning Commission

Close enough.

Yikes. (and that is the most polite phrase fit to print.)

And for what isn’t planned, possibly planned, maybe planned, who knows what plan exists right through my backyard and/or woods, well I would be close enough to be in a blast zone. Only it is apparently not politically correct to use that phrase, because when I did, I was told:

Regarding your concern about being in a “blast zone,” our office does not define or utilize the phrase “blast zone.” We do use the term Consultation Zone, which is a term used by the federal government and operators to distinguish an area of 1000 feet (in Chester County) on either side of an existing transmission pipeline where coordination between local officials, landowners, and operators are encouraged to consult with each other before land developments are planned for these areas. The US Department of Transportation (which houses the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Office of Pipeline Safety) sponsored a planning effort known as “Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance” (2010,) which identified the phrase Consultation Zone. They define it as an area extending from each side of a transmission pipeline to describe when a property developer/owner, who is planning a new development in the vicinity of an existing transmission pipeline, should initiate a dialogue with the operator. (see https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/…/pipa-report-final-20101117.p…) These zones are a recommended practice and not something that is required.

As another person pointed out to me:

 …the Blast Zone is something different. PHMSA calls it the “Buffer Zone” but sorry, we and our loved ones are not buffers.

If Adelphia [and others] end up being like Mariner East, at a 1000 ft you will be within the Blast Zone.

 

Whether Buffer Zone, Consultation Zone, or Blast Zone….they are all scary bad zones to me, o.k.?

Well now, apparently I will have skin in the game? That now I can join all of the other Chester County and Delaware County residents worrying about pipelines?

Fabulous. Worry is such a good look on people, right? (Dripping sarcasm, can you feel it?)

What started me like Alice down the proverbial pipeline rabbit hole this week is something I saw posted on Charlestown’s website:

adelphia

You see, in neighboring East Whiteland Township where I live, the township doesn’t have much out there yet on the pipelines.    All I found (easily – I say easily because perhaps information is hidden deep down in website ) was the Adelphia Gateway letter from January, which I had already seen.  Here it is:

A lot of townships now have stand alone pages with pipeline information.  Like East Goshen, Uwchlan, and Upper Uwchlan, for example. (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE) All townships with any pipelines should have these informational pages in my opinion.

I will note that when I sent my email to Chester County Planning about pipelines in my particular neighborhood, while the planning commission was kind and replied to me, only  ONE pipeline company gave me the courtesy of a reply acknowledging my outreach. Ryan Lumbridge from Enbridge. He offered up his phone number if I need to speak with him.  I will call him but I am most concerned with Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy. And apparently since now a couple of days has passed without even a simple acknowledgement of contact, Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy don’t seem to think they need to communicate with residents.

Wrong.

The pipeline companies need to communicate. To Interstate especially I say if you plan to maybe possibly or maybe definitely plan to do something 1,030 from the edge of our property, you can show a little interest. I am on a well, I have gardens, I have beautiful woods and more.  I want to know exactly what Interstate is planning to do if they do it and when. I am sure I am but one of many emails they get, and I am trying to be calm and rational, except I have seen what is going on in neighboring municipalities with Sunoco, and well, I don’t want my neighborhood to have these problems. 

I reiterate my objections to these pipelines which rape and pillage and destroy so they can ship their good overseas so other companies in Europe and elsewhere can do things like make more plastic.  Our homes are our castles, our American dreams and it is heinous that American companies can just take our land (without even just compensation in my opinion) and trash it for their profit. And put us in danger.

We are also densely populated enough that what if with other pipeline companies wishing to be Sunoco-Mariner East II-Lite something blows up? Collapses? Ruins wells, breaks water mains? Causes sinkholes? Brings down property values? We as residents are NOT protected. Officials can’t say it won’t happen because all the media coverage and whatnot shows it HAS happened.  Are we just to repeat the same darn patterns over and over from pipeline company to pipeline company and municipality to municipality???

I am sure pipeline companies want residents to just go quietly into the night.  We can’t. Our lives and our homes and our properties are at stake.  You can’t bully, harass, or threaten us into submission. We live here and like it or not, we have rights.  We shouldn’t have to be pipeline guinea pigs should we?

And right or wrong, I feel like these pipeline companies, our sitting Governor Tom Wolf, and even municipalities at times want us as residents to know as little as possible.

#DefendWhatYouLove

Here is a round-up of some recent articles I found:

DelCo Times Guest Column: An opposing view to Sunoco’s rosy outlook on pipeline project

Daily Local News: Middletown to Pa.: Stop pipeline construction

Dragonpipe Diary: Here’s how the “worst case” could happen: a dry run

Philadelphia Business Journal: PUC rules to keep Mariner East 2, 2X pipeline construction on hold

Delco Times: Delco moves forward on pipeline risk assessment study

Daily Local News:  Local lawmaker calls on PUC to post pipeline public comments online

State Impact PA:Officials: Water main contractor struck Mariner East 2 in Delaware County

Daily Local: Chesco Commissioners urge PUC to stand against pipeline projects

along charlestown road

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Charlestown Road is one of those crazy, twisty, meandering, yet beautiful Chester County Roads. It used to be such a country road.  It still is even if it is a traffic nightmare cut through road at times now too.

I see it as another beautiful series of vistas potentially at risk.

Why at risk?   Simple, start with the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road. It’s called “Pickering Crossing“. Another cram plan community of “carriage homes” or the current trendy word for townhouses.

DSC_5291While I will admit the design of these houses actually shows taste and some actual design, it’s 76 more houses.  3 and 4 bedrooms, and NOT a retirement community. It’s just another Stepford Village. You can’t even have a real garden in most of these communities.

So, that being said, time for a segue: Hey Great Valley School District are you paying attention YET to all of the development, or when the time comes will you behave like Lower Merion School District and just try to take someone’s land somewhere to expand?

Sorry, not sorry but given the pace of development in the Great Valley School District will it end up someday like Downingtown, which when I was in high school was just “Downingtown”, there was no Downingtown East and Downingtown West.

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And it’s not just the school districts which suffer from over-development.  We all are affected.  It affects infrastructure, municipal services, storm water management, traffic. It means less open space, fewer farms.

People, our food around here is not grown on the roof of Whole Foods, even if you can take a Yoga class there.

Development is an agriculture killer. Now granted, this country doesn’t respect farms and farmers the way they used to, and farming is not a business for the faint of heart.  It’s hard.  But we should support our local agriculture, not let it get developed away.

One of the beautiful things about Charlestown Road is there still is some farming left. It’s lovely.

DSC_5305BUT…..Another thing that worries me before I share the farm love is located at 124 Charlestown Road. This is the mysterious property known as Swiss Pines.

Swiss Pines is a 19 acre arboretum and Japanese garden . It USED to be open several days a week between spring and fall. BUT not so much since around 2013 (I think.)

Swiss Pines was established by Arnold Bartschi (born 1903- died 1996), born in Switzerland and by the mid-1930s, owner of the J. Edwards Shoe Company. In 1957, he purchased the 200 acres of the former Llewellyn estate, and during the next 30 years he developed the Swiss Pines site.

Swiss Pines became a nonprofit foundation in 1960- The Bartschi Foundation. The last IRS form 990 I can find is from 2016 –Bartschi Foundation 990 2016 – I do not even know if at this point there is still a non-profit. Guidestar and Charity Navigator seem conflicted in reporting and there are a few old IRS form 990s and that is about it. The last time the Bartschi Foundation or Swiss Pines was in the news was 2016 over a land dispute law suit.  Swiss Pines was mentioned briefly in May at a recent Charlestown Township HARB Meeting :

There was also discussion about the Great Valley Nature Center. Negotiations are underway to resolve issues in connection of the deed of the Bartschi Foundation that require this facility be used for educational and nature purposes. The condition of Swiss Pines was brought up. Since it is part of the Historical District, it is regulated by those ordinances but there was concern about the deterioration of the property. A suggestion was made that HARB could apply for a Keystone grant and obtain matching funds from the township to be used in maintenance of the Revolutionary Cemetery.

Once upon a time (check out this slide show from 2010 on Flickr) Swiss Pines had a Japanese tea house and garden, a stone garden, statuary, stone lanterns, and bridges set among amazing natural gardens. Plant collections include the Glendale Azalea Garden (150 varieties); the herb garden (100 species), the ground cover garden (28 varieties), and the pinetum (over 200 types of conifers).

Public interest has always been high for this property as a natural destination.  The Philadelphia Inquirer has written several times about the property, most recently in blog blip in 2010:

Living — Kiss the Earth
Swiss Pines
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2010 — 10:32 AM EDT by Virginia A. Smith

Swiss Pines is a strange name for a place that calls itself a Japanese garden, but here you go – 19 planted acres (out of 200) along Charlestown Road in Malvern, just down the street from the Great Valley corporate wonderland.

It was built by the late Arnold Bartschi, who was of Swiss ancestry and owned five factories in Pennsylvania that made children’s orthopaedic shoes. When he bought the former Llewellyn estate in 1957, it came with an English-style garden, four Asian pieces that caught his fancy – one sculpted Chinese lion, 2 Korean dogs and a bench – and 40 Swiss stone pines.

So, according to Carl Shindle, who’s taken care of the garden since 1962, Bartschi named the property Swiss Pines, studied up on Japanese design (and at one time hired a Japanese designer), and created this unusual garden. 

Sadly, Carl Shindle died in June, 2016 I am told. Henriette Bumeder, the manager, still lives there.  I worry for her and the property also because of periodic reports of vandalism to the property over the years (reference this article from 2007, for example.)

Vandalism plagues Swiss Pines trustee
By Brian McCarthy
POSTED: 10/24/07, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 10/24/2007

Manager and trustee of Swiss Pines, Bumeder has owned her 190-acre property at 20 Tree Lane since 1985. She opens the Swiss Pines Japanese Garden to visitors on the weekend, and operates her property (with caretaker Carl Schindle, who has worked on the land for 42 years), as a wildlife preserve for the copious amounts of deer, geese and other animals inhabiting the area……a chain of vandalism, each incident more serious than the last, beginning in January 2006, when two dead Christmas trees were dumped on Bumeder’s driveway. In March of that year, her street sign was ripped off of its pole and soon afterwards her mailboxes were knocked over twice.

In August 2006, Bumeder was driving when she noticed she was being followed….

Swiss Pines is deteriorating.  There is a blog post about it on a blog called Scooter Kitten from 2010.

I found screen shots of two other Philadelphia Inquirer articles from 1966 and 1973, respectively (there is an article from 1985 that I also found screen shots for and actually tried to buy the article off of the Inquirer archives, but the archive site sucks and I hope I do not get charged for content never received):

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img (1) 1985img 2 1985

Related to Swiss Pines and also future unknown is the Great Valley Nature Center. Arnold Bartschi (as in founded Swiss Pines) gave the land and start-up funds to establish the nature center. That was in the 1970s.

The Great Valley Nature Center fell on hard times.  It is currently closed. They still have a phone, but their birds of prey have been relocated and no fun camps for kids this year.  Here is the update from January 2018 off a new website (old one is no more) and their blog:

update gvnc

If you can help the Great Valley Nature Center, you can contact them through the newer website.  I think they need an angel with very, very deep pockets. I do not know what happens when a conservancy goes belly up, and that is my impression of what happened (right or wrong, and if that is wrong, by all means correct me.)

I found this old video on Patch from 2012 so you all can see why the Great Valley Nature Center is so special:

Now the farm I love to watch along Charlestown Road is Charlestown Farm.  Located at 2565 Charlestown Road. You see them at the wonderful Phoenixville Farmers’ Markets and they have a CSA. This farm is owned by the same family that owns neighboring Broadwater Farm .

When I see working farms and open space, it makes me so happy.  It’s what makes Chester County so magical.  We need MORE of that.

Anyway, enjoy some of the photos I took of Charlestown Road recently:

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100 artists of the brandywine valley by catherine quillman

Recently my friend Catherine Quillman gifted me a copy of this glorious book she wrote, 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley.

I love it! I think everyone should own it 😊 and you can read an excerpt HERE.

Catherine is very talented and just a wonderful human being!

You can read more about Catherine and what she has been up to on her website. (Catherine is always on the go, so her website is not updated often . She is also a regular contributor to West Chester FIG .

In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.

Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.

Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!