Conservancy practices what it preaches

There are some changes going on at the Brandywine Conservancy campus in Chadds Ford. The grounds are being tended to in a manner more in line with the conservancy’s mission.

About 30 volunteers and employees spent several hours planting native grasses and shrubs by the Environment Management Center that, according to Mark Gormel, will result in less stormwater runoff into the Brandywine Creek, improve water quality and increase habitat for the insects that birds eat.

Gormel is the horticultural coordinator for the conservancy.

“The goal is to put more native plants on the campus because native plants are the plants our wildlife have coevolved with. They’re adapted to using them. They rely on them,” Gormel said while coordinating the plantings on July 23.

Areas that have been turf grass, the grass that needs to be mowed, will become “native plant communities,” he said.

The change will make for an area that will be ecologically more productive because the plants are deep-rooted, he said.

“There will be better water infiltration into the soil, so we’re going to slow down or really reduce the storm runoff that comes from this part of the campus,” Gormel said.

As the plants mature and reach full size, they will use more water, thereby reducing the runoff even more. He added that they could start seeing results before the end of the summer.

The plants will also supply habitat for moth and butterfly species as well as the insects.

“Once you get that kind of activity on the plants, then you get a food chain staring to happen where the insects feed the birdlife in the area,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that about 95 or 99 percent of our common, every day birds rely on insects to feed their young.”

Conservancy Executive Director Virginia Logan said the project has been in development for about a year. It first came up in a series of pizza lunches Logan had with the staff in various departments at the conservancy, from land planners to security personnel.

The project is part of an idea to explore art as part of the environment.

“We do well in excellence as a land trust and as an art museum,” Logan said. “This is our connective theme.”

Those lunches led to three goals that have become part of the conservancy’s strategic plan. The goals include developing the campus around the Brandywine River Museum more fully as “a living tribute to what we do,’ she said. The new plantings are part of that goal.

Other goals include broadening the perspective by establishing a trail network from the main campus to the N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth studios to the Kuerner Farm.

“The trail network will help to not only connect people with nature, but to also offer programming,” Logan said.

That programming would include bringing in interpretive land art and also installing signs with QR codes that would link to information regarding what the conservancy is doing, and also link information telling what significance that particular area might have to a piece of artwork in the museum.

The third goal is to use the museum to help better explain the entire mission.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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