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Heritage Conservancy’s Croydon Woods nabs 2024 Governor’s Award


Doylestown Borough-based Heritage Conservancy recently won the 2024 Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for its nature preserve species surveys and educational programs at the nonprofit organization’s Croydon Woods Nature Preserve.

The Conservancy, with its mission of natural land conservation, historic preservation and environmental education, owns and manages more than 50 properties. This recognition, however, centers on what it’s doing at Croydon Woods.

The Environmental Protection Agency designated Croydon Woods a Superfund cleanup site in 1986 after the land was found to be contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds, such as Trichloroethylene. Prolonged exposure to TCE has been known to cause kidney cancer, among other health risks.

The woods, an 80-acre plot of land in Bristol Township, sit next to a Dow Chemical plant (formerly Rohm & Haas Chemicals LLC).

The EPA began the cleanup in 1989 and completed it in 1996. The groundwater extraction and treatment system the EPA built at the site is still being used today to remove TCE from the area’s groundwater — and that of the homes that had to be switched to the Borough of Bristol Water and Sewage Department water supply.

Corporations responsible for environmental damage must pay for “Superfund site” remediation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Though the chemical plant had been in operation since 1917 and another TCE plume on the same site had been attributed to Rohm & Haas, the plume beneath Croydon Woods could not be definitively linked to the company, so it could not be made responsible for the cleanup.

Croydon Woods, one of the last remaining coastal plain forests in southeastern Pennsylvania, is home to more than 350 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, including endangered plant species.

Since the Heritage Conservancy acquired the land from Dow in 2016, it has committed hundreds of hours of staff and community volunteer time to restore the once-blighted property to a publicly accessible green space. It has also worked to connect the preserve to the surrounding community, like the neighboring Keystone Elementary School.

The Conservancy built a Motus Wildlife Tracking Tower atop the roof of Keystone Elementary School, as part of the international Motus Wildlife Tracking System.

The tower detects wildlife along the Delaware River/Atlantic Flyway migration route and its antenna is able to pick up the signal of any tagged animals that come to within five miles of the station. The data is then fed into a central Motus database for use by scientists around the world.

Heritage Conservancy’s partnership with the school also includes a Tree Guardians Initiative, a Watershed Connections program and other learning opportunities in the outdoor classroom at Croydon Woods.

The conservancy’s “BioBlitz” event brought volunteers and scientists into Croydon Woods for a 24-hour wildlife tracking survey that documented almost 360 different plant and animal species living in the woods.

The BioBlitz celebration that followed was a public event that invited neighborhood families to connect with the woods and learn about the various species that live there.

“It has been a true community commitment,” says Shannon Fredebaugh-Siller, community engagement programs manager at Heritage Conservancy. “Our volunteers and scientists surveyed the woods, and we have shared their findings and data on the diverse animal and plant life in this local green space with people inside this community.”

These educational programs are a culmination of cleanup efforts and stewardship by Heritage Conservancy, and community and educational outreach have connected neighbors with this natural area, fostering interest in and care for the local natural environment.

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