March is Women's History Month and we want to honor a few of the (many) women who have demonstrated leadership and taken action to keep the Wissahickon Valley a place were people and nature can thrive. We asked WVWA board and staff to recommend women that have helped preserve the local green spaces, connect our communities to nature or who have been a conservation champion in other ways.
Note: When this blog was written, Wissahickon Trails was called Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association.
Susan moved to Ambler in 1998 and has since been a powerful advocate for the local environment. She designed a campaign to reduce lawn chemical use, was a founder of Pennypack Farm & Education Center, helped establish Ambler's Environmental Advisory Council, and put together the deal then raised the funds to protect Edgewood Preserve in Ambler Borough. She also secured grants and rallied volunteers in planting trees, restoring riparian buffers, installing rain gardens and developing a downtown tree management policy. These are just a few of her many accomplishments.
[Submitted by Sara Hertz, Photo from Ambler EAC's website.]
Phoebe is legendary for her community commitment, passion for the environment and conservation advocacy as well as kindness and compassion. Phoebe was Vice-Chair (17 years) and Chair (2 years) of the Montgomery County Open Space Board. During her tenure on the Montgomery County Open Space Board, Phoebe was instrumental in reviewing and approving open space plans to help secure funding for numerous projects in Montgomery County, with many of them benefiting the Wissahickon Valley.
She shared her time, knowledge, resources and ardor with WVWA and other like organizations. Whether working to restore the Four Mills Barn, the Evans-Mumbower Mill or preserving tracts of land, including her own 72-acre farm in Lower Gwynedd, Phoebe's vision, energy and ability to forge partnerships within communities have made her a role model and inspiration to all of us. Phoebe served as WVWA's Board Chair from 1981 to 1983, she was the first woman to ever serve as Board Chair of WVWA.
[Submitted by David Froehlich, information provided by "Trailblazers of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association".]
Saly has a passion for protecting open space as she believes that community members cannot be passive about the protection of open space and must act however and whenever we can. She certainly lives by that belief. Saly has partnered with WVWA over the years to provide our community with trail connections and she played leading roles in the preservation of Armentrout Preserve, Briar Hill Preserve, Penllyn Woods, and the ecologically rich Crossways Preserve.
The Crossways Preserve was once the Harris family’s Crossways Farm. The Harris family understood the value of open space in the Wissahickon Valley and wanted to preserve the farmland. WVWA partnered with Saly to preserve this beautiful land in Blue Bell. In 1998 she purchased the acreage along Plymouth Road and created a horse farm, the 54-acre Kindle Hill Farm, and she helped the Watershed to be able to acquire the remaining 70 acres of the property, which is now Crossways Preserve. Saly’s unwavering commitment to conservation, in partnership with WVWA, has ensured that both Kindle Hill Farm and Crossways Preserve have been protected in perpetuity
Saly also supported and contributed to the recently completed Crossways Bridge and Trail connection and she helped WVWA complete our longest stepping stone crossing (21 stones!) where the Wissahickon crosses the Green Ribbon Trail near Germantown Academy. Completed in 2011, this crossing is known as the Rose Rubenstein Crossing, in memory of the late Rose Rubenstein.
Saly continues to work with us on open space protection and we are so grateful to have her as a partner and to call her a friend. Thank you, Saly!
[Submitted by Gail Farmer]
Kate is always out and about at all sorts of community events including festivals, community planning meetings, Eagle Scout ceremonies and local forums, the list seems endless. Kate takes the time and makes the effort to know our community and our needs. As our State Representative for over 17 years, Kate focuses on issues involving the environment, public transportation safety and families.
Knowing that environmental funding is difficult to obtain, she worked aggressively on securing legislation that earmarks a portion of the state’s natural gas drilling funds for environmental programs. She has lobbied diligently for the State’s Growing Greener program, one that ties funding to environmental programs.
Kate Harper has been a friend to the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, and more importantly, a friend to open space protection in the Watershed, for decades. She worked with local municipal leadership to help WVWA get support from 13 municipalities in the watershed to adopt an intergovernmental agreement for developing a shared plan for improving water quality in the Wissahickon Creek.
For WVWA, her most impactful and lasting legacy is the protection of Penllyn Woods, a 77-acre wooded nature preserve and park in Lower Gwynedd Township. In the 1990s, this property was under significant pressure for development. WVWA did not want this property to be developed - we wanted it to be protected as open space. Over the next 7 years WVWA worked closely with Kate, and hundreds of community members to protect this land. After quite a long struggle with the developer, the board of supervisors were able to protect the property as open space through its powers of eminent domain. Without Kate’s leadership and tenacity, the beautiful Penllyn Woods that we know today would not exist.
[Submitted by Michaelle Fleisher]
Jane Keyes is the owner/operator of the extremely successful and landmark Tex Mex Connection restaurant in North Wales Borough. She is passionate about the environment and acts on that passion through her work and civic engagement. The Tex Mex Connection is a three-star green certified restaurant, has full-scale onsite recycling and composting, sources local and sustainable food, and she even has a green roof to reduce stormwater runoff and conserve energy!
Jane is also very active in North Wales Borough to help make the community more environmentally sustainable. Jane helped launch the North Wales Borough Earth Day celebration and hosts a “Party for the Planet” fundraiser at the Tex Mex Connection. She used the funding to purchase 80 rain barrels for borough residents who attended a workshop and learned how to install it. These rain barrels capture 4,000 gallons of rainwater in the borough (keeping that water off the streets) with each significant rain event.
Jane’s greatest contribution to environmental protection in the Wissahickon Valley is through her Tex Mex 5k Race for Open Space. Over the past 20 years of leading this event in partnership with WVWA, Jane has raised nearly 1 million dollars for open space protection, stewardship and trails. Jane donates countless hours of her and her staff’s time to plan and execute this event, providing food and margaritas to 1,600 runners - not to mention one heck of a party in the parking lot. It is an amazing event that significantly impacts WVWA’s ability to fulfill our mission.
[Submitted by Gina Craigo]
Nancy was instrumental in establishing the WVWA education program in its current form and volunteers for 100% of all the education-related activities. She shares her enthusiasm for environmental education and outdoor activities with hundreds of local children each school year. She’s lively and fun to be around- the kids and other volunteers really enjoy being with Nancy. She serves as a role model for students, chaperones, teachers and WVWA volunteers. Nancy also serves on the WVWA Board of Directors and volunteers her for many of WVWA’s events and service projects.
[Submitted by Suzanne Smith-Oscilowski.]
Polly was very active in the early years of WVWA. She was known as the "Mother of the Watershed." She founded WVWA's education program. As part of the education program she would go into schools with felt boards full of figures and information. She also trained other volunteers to do the same. She lived on a farm near the Gwynedd Valley train station, so she was very connected to the land of the Wissahickon Valley.
[Submitted by Phoebe Driscoll]