what about oakwell? once part of stoneleigh, now set to be demolished by greedy lower merion school district?

Tea House at Oakwell (October 2022 photo)

Oakwell. 1735 County Line Road, Villanova, PA. Originally part of Stoneleigh…..

I wrote briefly about Oakwell at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t going to care. I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer, so why should I care? Then a friend sent me photos. She had gone on an impromptu tour of the grounds, and met Dr. Bennett who is the man who first was selling to Villanova, then Lower Merion School District had it’s greedy paws out.

But then down the rabbit hole I went because a friend was there this weekend and sent me photos.

It started with the tea house. Such a folly. I had seen photos of them in Victorian estates. And then I saw the life size terra cotta warrior. A Chinese warrior. I find the Chinese terra cotta warriors fascinating. I have a small replica of one. (Check out the Smithsonian article HERE on them.) I have only seen life size ones in this area one other time: a few years ago for sale at Resellers Consignment Gallery in Frazer.

Then I read some fun history the Save Oakwell folks have dug up:

1921 Olmsted Brothers map of Stoneleigh property that become Oakwell in 1922: Greenhouse Complex, Superintendent’s Cottage, Squirrel Inn dormitory for women in the gardening and horticultural training program. White oak indicated in red box. Source NPS Olmsted Archives, Job #3577

In 1919, William Bodine was making preparations to build his new house on a portion of his father’s Stoneleigh estate, a property that came to be known as Oakwell in 1922. The famed Olmsted Brothers firm had been Stoneleigh’s landscape architects since 1908, and there are hundreds of pages of their records for both properties accessible in the Library of Congress and the National Park System’s Olmsted Archives showing the level of expertise and thought that went into the stewardship of this place through the 1950s.

What was Olmsted Brothers’ main concern when it came to placement of the new house and driveway along County Line Road? Almost 103 years ago to this day, this telegram to their client William Bodine, along with other correspondence, shows that their main concern was situating these structures in order to “save trees.”

~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group

Friday May 23, 1919 was a busy day for Stoneleigh’s Eleanor Gray Warden Bodine.

Bryn Mawr College was hosting the 5th Annual Conference of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. As an association member, Mrs. Bodine listened to talks on topics ranging from War Gardens to Community Gardens to the Woman’s Land Army.

Two years later, an article in House & Garden titled “Consider the Gardener” again shone a public spotlight on this program for training of young women, “offered by Mrs. Samuel T. Bodine of Villa Nova, Pa whose extensive estate and eminent superintendent-gardener, Mr. Alexander MacLeod, have formed an exceptional combination.”

After the program, the conference attendees toured 4 nearby farms & gardens, with Stoneleigh the last stop of the day. Eleanor Bodine would have welcomed attendees to view Stoneleigh’s magnificent gardens at the front of the property but given the interests of the membership, the back of the property likely would have been center stage. For this is where Mrs. Bodine and her superintendent Alexander MacLeod hosted an innovative gardening and horticultural training program for women, centered on a greenhouse complex and Superintendent’s Cottage designed by noted architect Frank Miles Day sometime before 1903 (both structures became part of her son William Bodine’s Oakwell after 1922). The women in the program lived in a dormitory they named “Squirrel Inn,” built specifically for them by the Bodine family, near the sprawling fruit and vegetable gardens where they spent their days (these were Victory gardens during WWI).

The article focused on the need to foster the interest of more young people in gardening and horticulture, with these lines that resonate 101 years later: “nature study classes and school gardens are awakening special powers of observation and emphasizing the practical value of patience and diligent perseverance…. public and private enterprise must combine to throw searchlights on the path to be chosen, revealing the mysteries of science related to horticulture [because] even soil… teems with history, science, poetry and religion.”

~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group

So Oakwell. Was (again) literally once part of Stoneleigh. Stoneleigh as in the house was built in 1877 by Edmund Smith, a Pennsylvania Railroad executive. Pennsylvania Railroad money built a lot of the Main Line of a certain period, didn’t it? When the Bodines acquired the estate, in the early part of the 20th century, what is now Oakwell and Oakwell land was gifted to William Bodine. William Bodine’s house “Oakwell” was built in 1922. In 1932, it was subdivided off of Stoneleigh.

So Stoneleigh survived, was donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands, yet Oakwell, which is a place that should be part of a similar preservation and conservation conversation is at risk. It is fascinating that there has not been more noise about this. Maybe people are just tired of Lower Merion School District taking properties or causing reassessments and increases in taxes. The Lower Merion School District is a greedy behemoth and I don’t think those in the administration have ever cared about other that what can be gotten in the name of the school district.

Next up: trying to make preservation conversations fun. Another rabbit hole I went down were old newspaper clippings. Enjoy:

Now here are a couple of society clippings discussing Oakwell and more recent era parties which I remember hearing of:

Philadelphia Inquirer October 17, 1991
Philadelphia Inquirer September 9, 1993

Ok yes, a lot of this is memories of days gone by, but properties like Oakwell? Legendary. Why shouldn’t a place like Oakwell live on with an adaptive reuse? The gardens although a wreck, are all still there! The tree are amazing. There is literally a small oak forest. And all of this is supposed to be flattened for TURF fields? For MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, no less? Is this an actual need, or a want?

Hidden City Philadelphia wrote an amazing article a couple of days ago. The talk about Oakwell being a historical resource. I will remind people this is Lower Merion Township and I watched Addison Mizner’s La Ronda get demolished. Being a historic asset may buy some time, but we live in a private property rights state, so it can sadly only delay the inevitable. And Lower Merion needs to pay more mind to demolition by neglect, in my humble opinion.

Here is an excerpt:

….The Oakwell estate’s current resident, Dr. John Bennett, founder and CEO of Devon Medical Products, has lived there for 25 years. He intended to sell the sprawling estate to Villanova University to be used as a retreat. However, in December 2018 the school district elbowed out Villanova and voted in favor of condemning Bennett’s property.

This is not how the school district sees it. “After a long search, the school district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties, which had both been offered for sale by their owners, for use as playing fields for Black Rock Middle School,” said Amy Buckman, director of school and community relations for Lower Merion School District.

Bennett disagrees. “I had the property under agreement with Villanova and, just prior to closing, the school district took it by eminent domain,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it go to baseball fields, destroying the ecological setting we have here. I went to court to fight them and lost. It’s a travesty.” The school district paid Bennett $9.95 million for the property.

“I offered to remain on the property to care for the house, but they want me gone so they can claim that it is abandoned, allow it to deteriorate, and tear it down.” Bennett has kept the entirety of the estate well maintained and still lives there with his daughter and grandchild.

~ Hidden city philadelphia 10/22/2022

Ok I saw this also in the Tap Into online publication in 2019 it was, I guess:

Landowners’ Charge LMSD with Fraud, Collusion, Bad Faith and Arbitrary Action in New Court Filing By MIKE BANNAN Published February 12, 2019

The day that LMSD condemned 1835 County Line Road allowing it to be taken by Eminent Domain, the property was effectively titled to the LMSD.  The only option available to the owners to get their property back is to fight a legal battle in court.

Lower Merion Township, PA — Fraud, collusion, and bad faith are alleged in court documents filed on February 7, 2018, by attorney Michael F. Faherty on behalf of his clients, township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco who are in a legal battle over the taking of their property by the Lower Merion School District.

In the documents, Bennett and Di Rocco are referred to as the “condemnees.” 

Who allegedly did these wrongdoings?  According to the documents it was the Lower Merion School District.

Using a tool afforded only to governments, the LMSD unleashed the force of “eminent domain” on Bennett and Di Rocco.  That Force is the power to condemn and take a private citizen’s home, land or property by a government for the betterment of society.

Eminent domain are two words that can strike fear into anyone owning property that a school district or government wants to own or acquire.

Township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco of 1835 County Line Road, Villanova, PA have had their property condemned and taken by the Lower Merion School District.  That is a fact, but the rest is very murky.

The court documents filed against LMSD allege a pattern of collusion and interference in a private business transaction where Bennett and Di Rocco say that LMSD officials and surrogates worked to scuttle an agreement with Villanova University to buy their property for almost $12 million.  

 The documents further charge the Lower Merion School District took the property illegally, and that school district officials or their delegates used fraud, collusion and bad faith tactics leading to an arbitrary action by the LMSD…..Villanova University’s President, Father Peter Donohue verbally offered to buy the property for $12 Million and agreed to have the paperwork drawn up.

The documents allege that Superintendent Robert L. Copeland, reached out to Father Donohue, after hearing about Villanova’s interest in the property.  The document states that Copeland Donahue that $12 Million was too much for the property. Copeland allegedly told Donohue that the LMSD was interested in buying the property and that LMSD valued the property at $8 Million.

Donahue relayed to Bennett and Di Rocco that the University would delay their offer letter and that they didn’t want to appear hostile or look like they were attempting to block LMSD, “especially with all of the flair up over Stoneleigh.”

At the same meeting, a discussion occurred about both the condemned property on County Line Road and the Spring Mill Road property.  The key question being: were both properties needed?

According to  Faherty’s filing Dessner stated that “LMSD could sell it to Villanova University.”
 

Bennett also informed Dessner and Copeland that the University would pull out of their agreement of sale if the condemnees’ were able to reach an agreement with the LMSD.  

Bennett provided a copy of the agreement of sale with the understanding that it would remain confidential.

Three days later on December 21, 2018.  The school board convened a special meeting and passed a resolution to condemn the property at 1835 County Line Rd, and a press release was issued.

~ TAP INTO LOWER MERION

Now back to the Hidden City Philadelphia piece (it’s wonderful):

How was Stoneleigh able to block the school district, while the historic landscaping, Acorn Cottage, and horticultural structures of the Oakwell estate, originally part of Stoneleigh, at risk? “When the historic resource inventory survey was conducted in the late 1990s, the greenhouse buildings were overlooked. However, this parcel is historically associated with the Stoneleigh estate and warrants similar protections,” said Kathleen Abplanalp. director of historic preservation at the Lower Merion Conservancy.

“From the very beginning, the entire 13-acre property has fit into our mission goals for historic preservation, open space preservation, the health of the local watershed, and sustainability,” Abplanalp said. “We are vehemently opposed to the current plan and hope the school district will compromise some of their programmatic needs.”

Erin Betley, a conservation biologist who lives in Lower Merion, views the pending destruction of the estate’s landscaping and historically significant structures like the greenhouse complex as lost opportunity. “Oakwell’s intact landscape provides a hands-on educational opportunity for our children, and our community, to learn about ecology, conservation, environmental science, gardening, sustainability, history, natural history, historical preservation, and more,” she said. “Historical records reveal that Stoneleigh’s greenhouse complex and fruit and vegetable gardens were educational spaces for young women during and after WWI, where they gained practical training in gardening while also feeding the community. I hope this can be viewed as a chance for this valuable place to come full circle and used in a way that takes inspiration from our collective past to inform our collective future”…A single mature oak tree can consume more than 40,000 gallons of water a year. Where will all that water go when the Oakwell estate’s trees are gone? 

Doug Tallamy, a conservationist, author, and professor of agriculture and entomology at the University of Delaware, agrees. “If you replace a forest with a lawn, you are generating run off,” he said. Tallamy was involved with preserving Stoneleigh. His message to the school district? “Find another place without cutting down hundreds of trees.”

~hidden city philadelphia 10/22/22

I am a huge fan of Doug Tallamy, own his books, have heard him lecture a few times now. I also live with a woods full of oak trees. I love them. I am attached to my woods and the creatures and plants in them, much like the folks who live around Oakwell.

This property would be better suited as a retreat, which is I think what I heard Villanova wanted to do with the property.

And not to skip around but is all of this crap being done by Lower Merion School District going to cost Lower Merion Township big time when it comes to public works, police, fire, EMTs? So when will they have to put in another firehouse and where exactly?

Here are some links which I saw on Save Oakwell which some of you might find of interest:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskn2EhZ5

https://www.flickr.com/photos/olmsted_archives/collections/72157657327384753/?fbclid=IwAR0hJvNu8F-i4pJ6ElAV3miRecfqnKmIMlqQitcfA8CaNMyIbtc4NGqIDwk

https://www.loc.gov/item/mss5257102658/?fbclid=IwAR0wGaGhzlHG5t7JHdZIk5aTviAy3q60lsWdnrNmHO3ckxIR5YaFT41wYOk

https://www.loc.gov/item/mss5257104294/?fbclid=IwAR1nRjtB9CqWct6cU0GR9Zy4016WG7ySHg2KmcVY4TiAgp8K5qETBGhhpgE

What do I think? I am not sure as on one hand, this is such a complex tale that I do not know if we will ever know the whole story. BUT on the other hand I am so tired of major properties being demolished and I am definitely of the school of thought that Lower Merion School District need to be stopped. After all, #thisplacematters and has anyone gone to the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet?

And let’s talk about the trees. 500 as in FIVE HUNDRED. Yes, that is the destruction number. That makes me want to throw up.

Isn’t it time to curb the rabid dog of destruction that is Lower Merion School District? From the historic preservation aspects to land and environmental preservation aspects, sadly Oakwell has it all going on. Yet people are being too damn quiet about this. Natural Lands needs to speak up. Hell, they know what it is to have to fight Lower Merion School District over eminent domain and also, the eco system that is their Stoneleigh will be threatened and altered and affected irrevocably if the mass destruction of Oakwell succeeds. Natural Lands speaking up now is very important, and I don’t quite get their silence, do you?

Oakwell need a reprieve. But more people need to care. Not enough people seem to care or are willing to stick their necks out. I really wish that someone would sit down at Oakwell with people who had lived there, or whose family has lived there and film an oral history. Well that should have happened before I think. And where are elected officials on this? Not just statements of Lower Merion Commissioner, but State Reps, State Senators, Congressional representatives, etc? County Commissioners? State environmentalists?

Where. Is. The. Really. LOUD. Public. Outcry?? And more media or do they only cover bad politicians and crime in Philadelphia?

I don’t have answers here only dismay and anger at Lower Merion School District. There is a Save Oakwell page on Facebook, a Save Oakwell group also on Facebook, Save Oakwell on Instagram, SaveOakwell.org, and Preserve Oakwell.

People. We need to save the region’s history. That includes gardens too. Trees. Houses. Tea Houses. I don’t have the answers. God I wish I did. But if we allow this to happen, in the end we will all be sorry. And I have to ask, is Radnor Township asleep here? Their township is quite literally across County Line Road. Radnor residents will be affected too. One would think the Radnor CONservancy might feign an interest, but that would mean getting out of their bubble, right?

Oakwell needs some big hitter angels, do any exist for this property? Why is it in other areas of the country, properties like this are revered and preserved?

Enjoy the photos my friend took.

#SaveOakwell

unhoused community growing along schuylkill valley trail

Homeless encampment from some area of Pottstown. Photos from #WEBELONG Community Page on Facebook

A lot of times I ignore the posts which appear on the social media app NextDoor. But recently one kind of stopped me in my tracks because it was talking about a growing homeless encampment along the Schuylkill Valley Trail which so many people in our area use.

This post was from someone who am I guessing is a cyclist or a runner who uses the Schuylkill Valley Trail. And then I wondered where did this encampment come from? I have been aware of the ones that come and go in the Pottstown area along the river.

So I called up a friend of mine who runs a food bank in Montgomery County and asked her what was going on. And she said things have gotten so bad that even her food bank on the Main Line has waiting lists to take new people. Between average every day Americans having the ability to get decent jobs and landlords who jack the rents whenever possible and then just evict people, she said there’s a growing crisis for the unhoused everywhere. And in Montgomery County it’s a real crisis and it’s pretty damn big.

My friend told me a story of a homeless person at a Main Line train station. He actually had a job, but he was trying to save enough money so he could find a permanent place to live and insure his car. Thanks to my friend finding out about this guy from another mutual friend, a very nice pastor from a church nearby was able to give this man a hand up and get him off the street.

But that’s just one person helped. And in areas like densely populated urban areas, homelessness is at such a crisis point that it’s overflowing into everyone’s communities. And then in our suburban communities, including Chester County to a degree, homelessness exists and food banks and food pantries are being stretched unbelievably hard. There are a lot of people in need right now. My own personal belief is people were barely getting by before Covid hit, and Covid has quite simply decimated so many peoples’ lives in some way or another.

Back to this encampment on the Schuylkill Valley Trail on the Montgomery County side. It has been caused by the city of Norristown and Montgomery County.

An activist named Bill England said in June:

With the closing of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center – CHOC – Montgomery County no longer has a year-round shelter for single adults. A new facility could take up to 2 years until opening. A temporary shelter needs to be opened now to provide a safe place for those in need of housing.

The Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center was on the grounds of Norristown State Hospital. Their lease there ended at the end of July.

According to The Reporter Online:

A land transfer agreement for the 68 acres was initially reached back in 2017, according to Norristown Municipal Administrator Crandall Jones. An agreement of sale was unanimously approved by council members five years later during a work session in February.

While the land is slated to be conveyed to the municipality, the actual agreement was listed between the state and Montgomery County‘s Redevelopment Authority.

~ Rachel Ravina, The Reporter online 6/2/22

So this is quite literally Montgomery County and Norristown‘s fault. So where is Val Arkoosh the great bungler of things COVID in Montgomery County and Chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners?

Where is Congresswoman Madeline Dean who has a district office in Norristown at 101 E. Main Street? The Congresswoman literally has a rather large homeless population that’s outside her office within a stones throw pretty much all the time now. And I know for a fact that people have gone to that office trying to ask them would they please do something to help the homeless that are right in front of them. It’s kind of political crickets all the way around.

Found on Facebook #WEBELONG Community Page. Photo dated 8/3/22

And then there is this other thing that literally happened a couple of days ago. Norristown as in the borough of (because it’s a city but it’s actually a borough) passed some ordinance keeping people out of borough parks and other places from Dusk until Dawn. This means they’re further abdicating responsibility for their homeless population, and basically pushing them out to other communities and even the Schuylkill Valley Trail because they have no housing, and they seek no solutions. Norristown probably won’t like that opinion but I’m entitled to have it.

Very few media outlets talk about this homeless crisis in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. And there’s not only Norristown, there’s the Montgomery County side of Pottstown. There have been homeless encampments along the river off and on for years.

Found on Facebook #WEBELONG Community Page. Photo dated 6/20/22

WHYY is one media outlet which put out a rather in depth article recently:

Advocates say there’s ‘no place’ for unhoused people in Norristown, where it may soon be illegal to stay in parks past dusk

By Emily Rizzo Aug. 9, 2022 11:19 am

Each time Tony Morano and Anne Douglass find a new place to pitch their tents, they face the threat of being forced to pack up their homes — and leave.

Recently, they say, a borough officer told them to get out of Riverfront Park, in Norristown, Montgomery County. When they moved to a spot along the Norristown bike path in late July, a park ranger ordered them to vacate.

Without vehicles, each removal — which they say feels like an eviction — means hauling their belongings by foot, and if they don’t, they risk getting their things thrown out.

Now, Norristown Borough, one of the poorest municipalities in Montgomery County, is considering a new “dawn-to-dusk” ordinance, which would make it officially illegal to sleep overnight in the borough’s parks. The ordinance comes during an affordable housing crisis in the county, and homelessness is 118% higher in Norristown than this time last year.

“I’m tired of us feeling like we’re at the bottom of the food chain, that we don’t exist and we don’t have feelings,” said Morano, who has been in Norristown for 10 years. He has a disability and has struggled to find stable, affordable housing. Douglass has lived in Norristown for two years with her daughter, who has a job in the area that she commutes to via public transportation…..When asked about the lack of shelter in Norristown for unhoused people, Lepera said, “There’s 53 municipalities, townships, and boroughs in Montgomery County. Why does it have to be in Norristown?”

“There is no place to be…They’re going to be outside for the foreseeable future. That’s the reality in Montgomery County,” said Boorse.

And unhoused people tend to “stay close to their roots,” Boorse and other housing advocates said. Many people have been in Norristown long enough to have a network of support that they rely on, are connected to necessary services, and basic needs like transportation.

~ WHYY 8/9/22

My research has indicated that most assistance to these homeless people is coming from churches and other bon-government organizations. My research also indicates that most elected officials are just literally looking the other way. Especially in Montgomery County.

Why am I writing a post? Because when I saw the thing about a homeless encampment on the Schuylkill Valley Trail I just wondered where this all came from. And now that I know I figure I’ll put a post out there because PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running for governor and he’s from Montgomery County and he is a former Montgomery County Commissioner. He needs to give a damn about this and now not at some vague point in the future. He and Leslie Richards used Montgomery County as a steppingstone to State careers and other opportunities. She went from PennDOT to SEPTA. He became Attorney General and is running for governor.

The homeless population within the City of Philadelphia is off the hook too, but I can’t even begin to cover that because the City of Philadelphia is so corrupt that nothing is going to happen there anyway unless there is some sort of crisis Jim Kenny can’t wiggle his way out of before he lame ducks his way out of office.

I remember years ago they would bus homeless people from the city out to Bryn Mawr and they would let them off right by the A+ gas station across from Ludington Library in Lower Merion. I am told it still happens? I don’t know if it’s by bus or by train but it still happens as per my sources.

But now, suburbia has its own homeless crisis. And at present Montgomery County is abdicating its responsibility for its homeless crisis and sooner or later they’re going to start moving into other counties as well. We are seeing that as the homeless start to move into the Schuylkill Valley Trail.

I am not saying any of this to be some NIMBY person, but we’ve had issues in Chester County and I remember when I first moved to Chester County there was a shell of an old restaurant on route 30 in East Whiteland that was eventually demolished that used to have homeless people that would break into it and live there. These people need a place to go. These people need some sort of government assistance no matter how you feel about that.

If you look at this in other ways, there’s also not very much affordable housing in a lot of places. You can count Chester County among those places. There’s lots of development, however. But that development pushes up real estate prices and rental prices and it pushes people out of their communities, sometimes making them homeless.

And then there is just the lovely economy. Superbly painful amounts of inflation, and a global pandemic have put us in a pickle. And nobody wants to say recession but as it may be worse than a recession at this point? And this did not start with the current administration, either. It is simply a big, nasty can kicked down the road.

I don’t have the answers, I wish I did. But friends in Montgomery County when I spoke to them about this asked me if I would write a post because Montgomery County and the various municipalities like Norristown dealing with homelessness are very petty towards people who speak out. And apparently Congresswoman Madeline Dean doesn’t want to deal with it either although her office literally looks at the Norristown homeless/unhoused pretty much every day? Nice job, Madeline.

So here I am, just putting out a curtain raiser. I really wish the rest of the media would look at this and I thank WHYY for looking at this. And Josh Shapiro? Tag you are it, you really shouldn’t ignore this.

And one last thing. Republicans and Democrats alike like to espouse they look after all of their constituents, only they don’t seem to see certain sectors of the population. Montgomery County and Norristown with their burgeoning in homeless/unhoused issue are a glaring example of this. Also the Pottstown area, where there are also significant homeless issues, and there is social media chatter about the Borough of Pottstown (Montgomery County) fining churches etc for feeding the homeless? And the borough council won’t allow discussion at meetings?

To readers of this post if you have photos of the Schuylkill Valley Trail unhoused encampment or the various ones that pop up around Pottstown, please message them through the blog’s Facebook page. I will publish them and you will have to tell me if you want any kind of attribution. Otherwise I will just say “submitted photo.”

Montgomery County, it’s time for you to stop abdicating responsibility.

Please consider a donation to your local food bank or similar organization.

Found on Facebook #WEBELONG Community Page

file under bad things could happen in upper merion?

Now I had heard billboards wanted to come to Upper Merion (township in Montgomery County adjacent to places like Lower Merion and Radnor Township in spots best known for the King of Prussia sprawl of malls) as in those giant things they call “monuments” that are on 202 in Chester County, Quakertown, attempted on Route 100 with a “farmer’s market”, and disposition unknown in East Whiteland on Route 30, and other places.

What I didn’t know in the Upper Merion situation until this morning when somebody pointed it out is that these billboards put a park at risk. Bob White Park to be precise. Who knew?

Apparently no one reads the papers because there was an article in Main Line Media News a while back:

Upper Merion supervisors delay hearing on signs
By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-centurymedia.com @MustangMan48 on Twitter Oct 16, 2020 Updated Oct 16, 2020 Comments

📌📝UPPER MERION — Some call them signs, some call them digital billboards.

Catalyst Experiential, the company that creates mergers of “art, architecture and advertising” calls them monuments that integrate “visual communication technology with local landmarks, infrastructure, and community experience, which encompasses the display as well as the ambient light sensor and other technology.📌📝

Whether or not Upper Merion Township will welcome the monuments in parks and underutilized parcels will not be decided until Nov. 12 when Upper Merion supervisors will again consider the concept after tabling the matter at Tuesday’s meeting….📝📌

The company was proposing installations at four locations, including Bob White Park, Betzwood Bridge, 795 W. DeKalb Pike and 216 Allendale Road.📌🎂

The proposed amendment to zoning ordinances to amend the Township’s Zoning Ordinance would permit and “encourage the innovative commercial use of certain lands within the Township” while establishing a township-wide communication platform.📝📌

The monument lease agreements would allow, among other things, a “proposed 30-year lease agreement with Croton Road Upper Merion Land Holdings, LLC for the lease of a portion of the property known as Bob White Park for the exclusive right to construct and maintain an off-premises advertising display subject to the terms and conditions outlined in said lease.”📝📌

Following a detailed presentation by Thaddeus Bartkowski, CEO of Catalyst Experiential, several residents voiced their concern about not having been informed about the hearing.📌📝

“All of these changes at Bob White Park are being made without any input from the residents,” said one resident. “None of us really knew until tonight what was going on. There’s lots of places to let us know … there’s social media. You could have shared the presentations with us. The workshop meetings used to be televised but they are no longer.📌📝

Interesting name cropped up if you click on article link and read the whole thing. Upper Merion has the same solicitor as East Whiteland Township, Chester County—Joe McGrory.

So again, I think the billboards are hideous and most locations in Upper Merion being proposed are locations already kind of hideous, but this whole plan for Bob White Park? Why has it gotten this far? Have Upper Merion officials lost their tiny minds?

So if I have this straight, billboard company wants to lease a portion of this park to erect a “monument” in a heavily wooded portion of park that faces the expressway? As in the Schyulkill Expressway? So maybe houses near the park wouldn’t have full on sign blast of light, merely an unhealthy glow potentially but that is not the real problem with this location is it? Isn’t the real horror of this location the potential RE-ZONING of park land to COMMERCIAL?

So OMG let me understand this: if Upper Merion re-zoned a public park to commercial land zoning wouldn’t that mean a park might not have legal protection if Jim Bob Shiny Bright Developer showed up down the road and tried to do something? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ that is a dumb ass plan isn’t it?.

And apparently in return Upper Merion would get “park improvements”? Talk about sell your souls to the devil right?

So look, not my county, not my people, not my township. But fascinating in its proposed vulgarity, none the less. Upper Merion residents, I feel for you. No one likes these billboards, well except for the company who likes to build them.

#nobillboardsintheburbs

Back to billboards. Happy Holidays affected residents, the issue that never seems to go away is back again.

May, 2009. That was the first billboard hearing about billboards in Haverford Township.

This includes the two ginormous billboards proposed for Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr across from the Bryn Mawr ACME and Our Mother of Good Counsel Church. Two ginormous billboards that would cast a ginormous shadow on lovely small neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Now mind you this was only one site proposed for Haverford Township, there were multiple sites. All in the shadow of churches, schools, small businesses, neighborhoods. And don’t forget the issue at five points in Bryn Mawr, which while technically in Lower Merion, also affects Radnor and Haverford Townships as this is the literal point where two counties and three townships meet. (To see articles about this topic, go to Main Line Media News and search “billboards, Bryn Mawr“.)

Well here we are at the end of 2019 and billboards are back as you can see above. This letter was sent out by Haverford Township 5th Ward commissioner Andy Lewis.

Andy said:

📌As per the attached letter, the hearing on the application of the Bartkowski Investment Group to install billboards in four locations in Haverford Township, including two along Lancaster Avenue at Old Lancaster and Penn Street, is scheduled to commence on Tuesday, January 21st and continue for three days. Please save the dates📌

I never know what the media is going to cover or not cover, and they have been quite devoted over the years to the residents potentially affected by these billboards. However, I have a lot of friends that still live near these billboards sites so I am posting this because how could I not? Back in the day I went to every billboard hearing until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011.

I will also note this is the same company residents in Tredyffrin are fighting. (See Community Matters.) In Tredyffrin they want to tear down the historic toll house replica built by Okie at Lancaster Ave and Route 252 in Paoli. (Also see Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli Page on Facebook.)

I saved lots of photos from these old Haverford Township hearings and I’m posting a few of them here. I want people to see things like when the firetruck shot their ladder up in Haverford Township above houses to show how tall the billboards would be. Or when residents in Haverford Township made a mock-up using big blue tarps of the actual size of a billboard screen being proposed. and photos of residents taking to the streets over this issue.

I no longer live in or near the areas of Haverford Township being threatened, nor do I live close by to the proposed site in Tredyffrin in Paoli. But as a citizen of this country until they revoke it, I still have my First Amendment Rights… which interestingly enough has always seem to be one of the arguments for why these billboards should be allowed and I’ve never understood that and can you understand that?

#NoBillboardsInTheBurbs pass it on. Please support the residents of Haverford Township, Lower Merion Township, Tredyffrin Township, and any other township who objects to these monstrosities in their communities.

I will also note that four states—Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards. Yes, they banned them. So why can’t we say no?

I wonder would the folks from the billboard company want BIG digital billboards on their front lawns? Probably not and I doubt their neighbors would either, right? So why shouldn’t these communities be able to say “no thank you”?

BILLBOARDS = BLIGHT

light a candle for the missing

As 2018 draws to a close, light a candle for the missing. I have lit two bay candles.

One candle is lit for Geoff Partridge of Villanova.

One candle is lit for Anna Maciejewska Gould of Malvern.

They have people who love them and the families deserve the answers they seek. My wish as I lit the candles are for the missing to find their way home.

I know neither of these missing people personally, but this could happen to any family.

Here’s hoping the new year brings answers and the missing do indeed find their way home.

Thanks for stopping by.

living and co-existing with group homes

DSC_3600This post represents uncharted waters.  I am writing about it because in part I don’t understand the rights involved.  I get the basics and that is about it.

What am I talking about?  Group houses.  Group houses of developmentaly disadvantaged adults and even kids.

These group houses are all over our communities.  I have one in my neighborhood, friends have one in their neighborhood in Gladwyne in Lower Merion Township, friends have one in their West Chester neighborhood, and other friends have one in their Rosemont neighborhood in Radnor Township. These homes are in many, many places in Montgomery, Chester, and Delware counties.

These community homes are owned by companies and institutions that specialize in the needs of the special needs, and in other cases the homes are owned by other people who rent to these companies and institutions for profit.

I have no problem having homes like this in our communities.  They are allowed by law and these disadvantaged people have a right to as normal a  life  as possible and a home too.

These homes are allowed in our communities and are protected under Federal laws. I am not a zoning or civil rights lawyer but I imagine along with anti-discrimination laws they cover these homes under things like the Fair Housing Act.  I found very helpful information courtesy of the Department of Justice who say (in part):

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful —

To utilize land use policies or actions that treat groups of persons with disabilities less favorably than groups of non-disabled persons. An example would be an ordinance prohibiting housing for persons with disabilities or a specific type of disability, such as mental illness, from locating in a particular area, while allowing other groups of unrelated individuals to live together in that area.
To take action against, or deny a permit, for a home because of the disability of individuals who live or would live there. An example would be denying a building permit for a home because it was intended to provide housing for persons with mental retardation.
To refuse to make reasonable accommodations in land use and zoning policies and procedures where such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons or groups of persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing.
What constitutes a reasonable accommodation is a case-by-case determination.
Not all requested modifications of rules or policies are reasonable. If a requested modification imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on a local government, or if a modification creates a fundamental alteration in a local government’s land use and zoning scheme, it is not a “reasonable” accommodation.
The disability discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act do not extend to persons who claim to be disabled solely on the basis of having been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent, having a criminal record, or being a sex offender. Furthermore, the Fair Housing Act does not protect persons who currently use illegal drugs, persons who have been convicted of the manufacture or sale of illegal drugs, or persons with or without disabilities who present a direct threat to the persons or property of others.

HUD and the Department of Justice encourage parties to group home disputes to explore all reasonable dispute resolution procedures, like mediation, as alternatives to litigation.

 

They continue and answer some basic questions with regard to fair housing and local zoning:

Q. Does the Fair Housing Act pre-empt local zoning laws?

No. “Pre-emption” is a legal term meaning that one level of government has taken over a field and left no room for government at any other level to pass laws or exercise authority in that area. The Fair Housing Act is not a land use or zoning statute; it does not pre-empt local land use and zoning laws. This is an area where state law typically gives local governments primary power. However, if that power is exercised in a specific instance in a way that is inconsistent with a federal law such as the Fair Housing Act, the federal law will control. Long before the 1988 amendments, the courts had held that the Fair Housing Act prohibited local governments from exercising their land use and zoning powers in a discriminatory way.

Q. What is a group home within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act?

The term “group home” does not have a specific legal meaning. In this statement, the term “group home” refers to housing occupied by groups of unrelated individuals with disabilities.(2) Sometimes, but not always, housing is provided by organizations that also offer various services for individuals with disabilities living in the group homes. Sometimes it is this group home operator, rather than the individuals who live in the home, that interacts with local government in seeking permits and making requests for reasonable accommodations on behalf of those individuals.

The term “group home” is also sometimes applied to any group of unrelated persons who live together in a dwelling — such as a group of students who voluntarily agree to share the rent on a house. The Act does not generally affect the ability of local governments to regulate housing of this kind, as long as they do not discriminate against the residents on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap (disability) or familial status (families with minor children).

 

Q. What kinds of health and safety regulations can be imposed upon group homes?

The great majority of group homes for persons with disabilities are subject to state regulations intended to protect the health and safety of their residents. The Department of Justice and HUD believe, as do responsible group home operators, that such licensing schemes are necessary and legitimate. Neighbors who have concerns that a particular group home is being operated inappropriately should be able to bring their concerns to the attention of the responsible licensing agency.

 

 

I just chose a few things off that page, an excerpt.  This web page on the Department of Justice website has a lot of information. If you have a group home in your neighborhood, I suggest you check out this page titled “Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act.” I will also note that the evolution of disability rights in the United States is fascinating.

When doing research I also found this publication from the Minnesota State Planning Agency. It’s like a handbook to assimilating these types of homes into their communities.  Dry, but interesting. I also found a website called “The Arc” that has a lot of information.

So why am I writing about this delicate topic if I am o.k. with a group home like this being in my neighborhood? Truthfully, I have a couple of concerns about the house in my neighborhood and I wonder what the rights of my neighbors and my familiy’s are and how we can better co-exist.

Our neighborhood group home is owned by a larger company that took over a smaller company.  When the smaller company owned the home it was different. It was better maintained, longer term neighbors say.

The company that owns our home states in their literature that they:

support one to five people, depending on need and location. Most homes have 24-hour supervision, and all meet state licensing standards…homes are adapted to the needs of the individuals living there and are maintained with care.

 

Ok not to be unkind, but there I take issue – with the whole “maintained with care” of it all. Truthfully do they do more than  the bare minimum possible to the exterior and the grounds (I have no idea what it is like inside and nor would I have reason to be on the property or in the house)?

For example, they have done very little clean up of any storm debris from February’s ice storm. (And let’s get real everyone has started by now because there is so much to do.)

And around the time of the ice storm and beyond, I had to contact one of the local offices of this company to let them know they had fir trees and such leaning on electrical wires.  Very pleasant people to deal with. The 24 hour staff had never to my knowledge notified them so they could tell PECO. We had already gone a week without power, and I thought if I did not like it very much, how hard would more of that be for developmentally challenged adults?

Group homes in the broad aspect are like rental homes, right?  Some rental houses have landlords who are more house proud than others.  I don’t expect full flowering gardens, but it would be nice if they cleaned up more.  I would think it would be nicer for the residents too.

These houses have periods where they have a lot of cars in and out.  Our neighborhood group house has one on one proportion of care staff to each resident.  We are not sure how many people actually live in the house and how do they do a resident count as far as our municipality as it seems that part of it defers to local zoning? Is it a head count of residents alone or is it a combined head count of residents and staff as a total head count if this is a home with 24 hour a day 7 days a week care?

The number of people is not only important from the view of what is it our local zoning actually allows (which is like a great mystery of life), but when considering things like septic systems.

We don’t have access to public sewer and we are all on septic.  And you can see multiple sand mounds on this property from public rights of way and neighbors’ side yards, and well those have to do with septic systems and how many of those can you dig on a property probably around an acre in size?

In the warmer weather you occasionally get septic smells from this group home.  We all do our best to treat our septic systems with respect and we know we have to limit massive amounts of water usage so as not to harm our systems.

We also pay attention and try to use more environmentally friendly cleaning products and clothes detergents.  We as more permanent residents know we have to do these thing but do the staff of this group home know or care about such things? Septic systems contain human waste.  Waste like that if it escapes septic tanks, fingers, and so on can spread disease.  What happens if the septic goes completely? How many of those mound things can you dig? How does that affect not only our quality of life as neighbors but the lives of the group home residents as well?

And to all of the things that go into “curb appeal” I would add good septic along with a tidied up property, wouldn’t you?  Because face it, the curb appeal of others’ affects your property values too, right?  Our homes are our castles, so you can’t blame people for having occasional concerns.  It is just trying to be a good neighbor and our neighborhood is pretty tight in that regard which I really like.

We see staff coming and going, but rarely see residents. Well we see one.  This resident sneaks out unsupervised and occasionally has issues.  The company that owns the group home in our neighborhood says their residents are not supposed to be unsupervised, that is why they have one on one care.

But the resident who wanders has done things like peep in people’s windows, including mine (which did scare the crap out of me early one morning).  That of course is not so much fun and well there are laws about what amounts to trespassing and being a peeping Tom.  But we haven’t as of yet called the local police about that, we just tell the company when he is out because he is developmentally disadvantaged.  We figure this resident probably misses having an actual family, only he’s not ours to care for. This poor person also occasionally has anger issues. That also isn’t ideal because we have kids and we worry about the acting out occurring when the kids are out playing because they are children and not equipped to handle things like that. And again, this person is not our responsibility.

My friends who have these group homes from similar companies experience varying degrees of issues from these homes as well.  Some have even told me of their concerns.  Some have had houses where the police have been called a great deal at different times or problems with an overabundance of people parking on lawns like it is a mall parking lot.   I have never seen the local police at our neighborhood group home, although once a few months ago I did see a county sheriff car stop by.

We are very lucky all things considered in our neighborhood.  I have seen homes like this end up on the news either because of living conditions or missing residents. But still we wonder what our rights are? Do we have the right to ask how many people live there and how many people by code are allowed to live in any kind of a group home? Should we be calling the police when residents wander alone nstead of the company’s local office?  And do we have the right to be concerned about upkeep of the property and worry when their septic smells?

I just don’t know,  so I am putting it out there to all of you.  Especially if you have such homes where you live. These residents of these group homes deserve to have a normal a life as possible, but they are sort of among the voiceless in our society so what do we or should we do if we think one of these houses has a problem? Additionally, what are our rights as property owners and residents and what do local municipalities do to ensure these group houses blend successfully into our communities and ensure that the actual residents are always safe?

I will throw something out there. Everyone knows I am not a huge fan of followers of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy. However that being said, it seems that The Camphill Movement in Chester County does some pretty awesome things for developmentally disadvantaged children and adults.

In closing I will add I have been torn about this for a long time.  These homes are for a lot of us a relatively new phenomenon in our neighborhoods and communities.  And there are no guides or rule books for co-exisiting.  We have  ideas of the rights of the residents thanks to disability and housing rights laws, but there really doesn’t seem to be anything that lays out the rights of the people who live around them.  So maybe it would be nice if some group in Pennsylvania or local municipalities could give us an outline.

Thanks for stopping by.

DSC_3602

 

 

tredyffrin has hired a new manager…

So, Tredyffrin has a new manager.  I still have a bad taste in my mouth from what the exiting manager Mimi Gleason and VP of the Board of Supervisors John P. DiBuonaventuro did to fellow blogger and friend and all around awesome lady, Pattye Benson who authors Community Matters.

Tredyffrin has hired one of their hometown boys, Bill Martin, formerly of Radnor Township fame and the Bashore years.  Not that Bill Martin was a particular fan of Bashore’s (I was told he wasn’t), he was just from that truly unfortunate era.  An era which took the fortitude of some persistent residents, commissioners, and others who were on the up and up to correct.  It was not, however, without blood shed.

Bill Martin went from assistant township manager (and vartious other positions) in Radnor to interim township manager in Radnor in early 2010 when Radnor was saved from the debacle of almost hiring problematic ex-Coatesville manager Paul G. Janssen Jr. as interim township manager.  Martin, however, was ultimately passed over for the permanent manager position when Bob Zienkowski was bought in from Ohio.

I will tell you honestly I am of the Radnor Bob Zienkowski fan club and with good reason – he is amazing. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.   That man walked in to a hot mess, rolled up his sleeves, and got busy.

As an aside, some timely news about Radnor as it relates to Chester County is Bob Zienkowski suggested at the October 15th, 2012 public meeting that Radnor consider studying to leave Delaware County and to join either Chester or Montgomery County.  Yes, municipal secession (see Radnor meeting on You Tube for 10/15/12 and start listening just before 9 minutes 42 seconds to catch this.) The irony is I have always felt Radnor Township had more in common with Chester County versus Delaware County,  but I digress.

Ok back to Bill Martin.  After Radnor, he went to Bridgeport – a very tiny municipality in Montgomery County.  He has been there about a year as per newspaper article I found. Of course, Bill Martin joins another mid level Radnor refugee of the Bashore era, Matt Baumann, who is Tredyffrin’s current Director of Planning and Zoning.  Matt helped me when I got the historical marker for the Wayne Natatorium.  He’s a heck of a nice guy.

Bill Martin is also a nice guy from what I have always heard told.  But truthfully, Tredyfrrin as I see it is a municipality in need of serious remediation ASAP.  And choosing a manager who may or may not be a politically connected local resident may not be the way to go here.  I am actually going to disagree somewhat with my esteemed blogging colleague Pattye Benson ever so slightly.

Pattye comments that this is the first time a Tredyffrin Township Manager is a  Tredyffrin resident and lives in the township.  Now I agree with the residency part, and I think the departing and in the end disappointing Mimi Gleason is actually a West Chester area resident.  What I do not agree with is choosing someone who lives in Tredyffrin now as a manager.  I think the best thing that could have happened to Tredyffrin would have been a new Township Manager coming in from waaaay outside Tredyffrin and the area, truthfully.

I hope I am wrong, but I wonder if Bill Martin will have the chops in the end to take on what needs doing in Tredyffrin.  Tredyffrin has historically been subject to whispers – people are afraid of retribution. And before you poo poo me here, look what happened to Pattye Benson when she spoke up?  That still does not sit right with me, and I still believe that troll of a supervisor John P. DiBuonaventuro as well as Tredyffrin Township’s administration owes her an apology, don’t you?  In true lettergate fashion, I say a written apology.

Insular politics and politics of one party rule without much balance is bad for a community – just look at the snarl of tangled politics that is Lower Merion Township.

So I will be looking for Bill Martin to be an independent voice, beholden to no one.  I hope he can accomplish that.  I hope after what he saw and experienced at Radnor Township during the Bashore years that he can bring a different tone to Tredyffrin.

Congratulations Bill Martin, but my oh my you have a large job ahead of you.

Tredyffrin Appoints New Township Manager/Something about the new manager is very different than his predecessors.

ByBob Byrne  Email the author  5:56 am

Community Matters and TE Patch Blogger Pattye Benson reports that Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors has appointed a new Township Manager to replace Mimi Gleason, who left the position in September 17 after ten years with Tredyffrin Township…..What sets him apart from Gleason and others who have served as Tredyffrin Township Manager is that Martin is a resident of the township.

Full details on the new manager can be found here on Pattye Benson’s Community Matters/TE Patch Local Voices blog post.

ignorance is bliss?

Every once in a while I receive a comment that deserves it’s own post.  I am about to quote one back and file it under ignorance is bliss.

I wrote a post about a story I saw in Phoenixville Patch on illegal dumping in Mont Clare.  So I wrote a post .  I write lots of posts, right?  Also in this post I commented on a story in the Pottstown Mercury  about kids who were swimming in the Schuylkill River. So I got this comment:

Jes commented on trails are for illegal dumping ?

I do! There is nothing wrong with them wading in knee high depths of water where they were. Plus it’s none of your concern.

More information about Jes

IP: 96.227.13.249, pool-96-227-13-249.phlapa.east.verizon.net E-mail: jshlbug@msn.com URL: Whois: http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/96.227.13.249

“Jes” , I am guessing, is responding specifically to this comment I made in that post:

So I looked online to see if any other media was covering this and other than something in the Pottstown-Mercury about kids from North Coventry looking for crawfish in the Schuykill and swimming who found guns instead. That was in the area of the Keim Street Bridge.   Ok also bad, and were they decontaminated after being in the river? And who the heck lets their kids swim in the river?

Well, Jes, yes I dared make a comment, and here is how I feel: telling me it is “none of my concern” to comment doesn’t quite cut it.  Every year there are stories in the papers and on the news on a state, local, regional, and national level about kids and adults who don’t know enough about large bodies of water and who drown unnecessarily.

Bringing it more local the Philadelphia region and being more specific, there are enough stories about kids drowning in the Schuylkill, that so sorry, I can indeed and will comment.

The Schuylkill is a body of water that needs to be respected and is hardly a still pond or pool.  There are currents and drop offs – wading can quickly enough become something else.  So do I think parents shouldn’t let their kids swim in the Schuylkill?  Yes.

And what happens when this no harm/no foul swimming/wading goes bad?

Check these stories  about drownings in  the  Schuylkill (and this is just a random sampling):

Drowned Reading boy pulled from Schuylkill River

Exeter Township fisherman drowns in Schuylkill River

Girl rescued from near drowning on Schuylkill River

Missing Drexel Student from NJ Found Dead in River: Police

Body of 9-year-old found in Schuylkill

Teenage girl drowns in Schuylkill

Body pulled from river identified as missing Trappe boy

Crews search for boys in river

And related to “Crews Search for boys in river” from 2003 is a highly quotable article:

Official says there was no one to rescue in Schuylkill River

“We’ve had no reports of missing persons. No one has made known to us that anyone is missing, and we’ve had no additional information,” North Coventry Police Cpl. Robert Malason said Thursday….”We don’t believe it was a hoax, because they were seen in the water by at least three separate groups,” Malason said. …..  Police theorize that the two teenage boys spotted in the river managed to get out of the fast-flowing waters themselves after jumping into the turbulent river from the Hanover Street bridge, something police say area youths do too often.

The report was that the two boys got into trouble right away, but managed to stop their ride downstream by grabbing onto large branches of a tree that had toppled close to the water, at least one witness told police.

 The witness told police he shouted at the two boys to hang on, jumped on his bike and rode quickly to the borough police station for help. By the time emergency units arrived on the scene, the boys were no longer hanging onto the tree branches.

Police had to treat the incident as though they had been swept away and possibly drowned, and so the search that involved fire companies and other emergency workers up and down the river from Pottstown to Phoenixville began.

 

First responder activity is expensive to municipalities, and I have been told these water rescue operations and even if they go from rescue to recovery are even more expensive. And there is risk involved for these first responders, you can say it is their job, but if the situation can be avoided through common sense, why not?

People do drown in the Schuylkill River.  And a lot of times the people drowning  are kids.  The Schuylkill River is also not the cleanest body of water.  Check out this thing on PhillyRiverCast:

The Schuylkill River, like all working rivers, is not a pristine body of water and is subject to contamination from many sources and activities that either discharge directly, or enter the river during rain events.

Because rivers are vulnerable to such contamination, recreation in or upon any body of water has with it an inherent risk of illness and infection for the individual involved.

And oh yes, check this out:

‘A polluter’s paradise:’ Report ranks Schuylkill and Delaware rivers poorly on chemical pollution

Published: Saturday, April 07, 2012

Despite the fact that it’s much cleaner than it used to be, the  Schuylkill River may still deserve its reputation for being polluted –  at least according to a report released March 22 that analyzes toxic  chemicals discharged into all the river systems of the United States.

In  Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill ranked as the third most polluted waterway  in the state for cumulative toxic discharges and slipped under the wire  into the 50 most polluted waterways in the nation, coming in at 49,  according to the report releases by the environmental advocacy group  PennEnvironment.

Perhaps more worrisome is that when looking at  entire watersheds, the Schuylkill River and all its tributaries  cumulatively rank 26th in the nation for “discharges of all toxic  chemicals in 2010.”….The report, titled “Wasting our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfilled promise of the Clean Water Act,”  examined industrial releases reported to the U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent  data available.

So commenter, pardon me for the disagree, but golly gee whillikers, swimming in the Schuylkill River ain’t what it is cracked up to be.  Yes, for kids, it is a tremendous amount of fun (probably because they know they aren’t supposed to be in the river unless they are in a recreation area that has tubing and boating and similar activities), it is also dangerous.  From currents to contaminants.

Can I see this from my window?  No.  But can I comment? Yes.   Heck kids can even drown or nearly drown in large creeks.  The boy pulled from Ithan Creek in 2011 was in a coma as a result.  He suffered as a result (brain injury), and this boy and his family are fighting every day so he will get back his life. Now obviously if you read about this boy, it’s not like he had uncaring parents who did not care what he did, but accidents happen.

And if accidents like what happened to Logan Schweiter can happen in a creek, and every year you hear stories of drownings and near drownings in the Schuylkill River, why can’t people comment about this topic?

Sorry, but I think it is irresponsible to say wading or swimming in the powerful Schuylkill River outside a designated recreation area is just fine. I think it is an accident waiting to happen.

Thanks for playing chestercountyramblings.