Julie L. Jones, MD has been a valued friend, supporter, committee, and board member of the Conservancy since 2016. Her commitment to the Conservancy and our work is founded in childhood experiences and deep passion for our natural world. Here, she tells us more about where her passion comes from, her work for the Conservancy, and what inspires and gives her hope.
What inspires your deeper commitment to the protection and care of our natural lands?
I was lucky enough to grow up on the beautiful Delaware River right in the Water Gap on the New Jersey side. My family owned a resort that catered to families with a natural sandy beach, cottages, picnic groves, and boat rentals. We were near a trout stream and the Appalachian Trail. This place is so special that The National Park Service acquired it by eminent domain to be the welcome center at the southern end of The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. There were plans to build a dam on the river at Tocks Island, and my family and other activists worked to protect the free-flowing river. Thankfully the dam was never built. After leaving the Water Gap, we relocated upstream and inland to Dingmans Ferry and shifted our family business to river trips on the Delaware River, providing canoes, kayaks and rafts with transportation up and down the river, eventually covering 150 miles of river with the operation of Kittatinny Canoes. I was immersed in the beauty and solace of nature ever since I was a child, and our family introduced others to this beauty through our river business. Every year I would invite my friends from school, college, med school, or wherever, to take an overnight canoe camping trip on the river. Those are some of my favorite memories. My family has also worked hard to protect this resource by organizing an annual river clean beginning in 1990. My mother, Ruth Jones, has kept the totals of the trash collected: 9,281 tires and 468.95 tons of trash have been removed by 9,585 volunteers over the years! I am proud of our family legacy, and I want to continue the legacy of protecting our environment for our children and grandchildren.
What first inspired your interest in the Lancaster Conservancy?
When Lancaster Conservancy had the foresight to purchase the old Marietta Gravity Water Company property in Hellam Township on the York side of the river a few years ago, I got very excited about the work of this amazing non-profit! Our family has had a little cottage here for about 35 years. The Susquehanna runs west to east from the Shock’s Mill Bridge down to Chiques Rock and it catches both the sunrise and sunset on this lovely stretch. To have much of this area of the river corridor protected from development is a major win for all of us! I felt truly honored when Phil Wenger approached me about being on the Board in 2018; the timing for me was also perfect because I had just retired from my practice of medicine. We know most of the people along River Drive, so I had one foot in Lancaster and one foot in York, too. We now live here full time and enjoy the beauty and wildlife along the river every day. The Susquehanna and her surrounding lands are a rich resource that deserves to be protected. The Conservancy’s goals– to protect and restore our dwindling natural areas for everyone in our community—forever, align perfectly with my goals, too.
How have you been involved in the Conservancy over the years?
I first joined the Board in 2018. I continue to be impressed with the vision, dedication, energy and integrity of the staff and volunteers who work to protect our natural lands. Our community has become keenly aware of the value of open and natural spaces, especially during the pandemic and as our world faces significant climate change. It has been an inspiring and wild ride to see how nimbly the Conservancy has been able to identify and protect some very large and special tracts of land in recent years. My role at the Conservancy has largely centered around community involvement and education. There has been a careful planning process for Hellam Hills and The Wizard Ranch, and I have worked to involve the neighbors in that process. We have wonderful naturalists on staff who are working hard to introduce young people to nature through education and experiences. I am happy to support the effort to inspire the next generation of conservationists. There is so much more to be done!
Can you share with us one of your favorite memories of time spent in nature?
I don’t have just one; there are many. But I have to say that floating down the pristine Upper Delaware River in a canoe or kayak, or just floating along with a life vest and mask and snorkel looking through the clear water to the bottom of the river must be my favorite thing to do. It is about the water, the clean water, and the life that thrives because of it. My husband and I also SCUBA dive and we have had some thrilling adventures on coral reefs. The beauty and diversity of nature is a treasure that everyone should be able to enjoy.
What environmental issues concern you most? What gives you hope?
Human disregard for the natural environment may be our ultimate undoing. The immense human population and our insatiable appetite for “things” and for energy have already caused incredible harm to the natural world, with changes in my lifetime that I could not have foreseen. I am deeply saddened and troubled by the exploitation of our natural world and our disregard for other living beings, both plant and animal. Development for short term economic gain is a terrible thing when long term environmental impact is ignored. The politicization of economy vs. environment makes me sad. I wish we could see seven generations ahead to know the impact of our actions today!
Here is what gives me hope: people working on behalf of others to protect what is precious in nature. The Conservancy is working locally to save the natural areas that we know and love best. If every community can do what is possible in its own place, there is hope. The movement to plant natives in our own backyards to provide food and shelter for wildlife gives me hope. The next generation gives me hope. Both of our children work in environmental fields. Our daughter helps shape environmental policy for the USDA and our son is an environmental engineer. They and their peers understand that action is needed now, and they are working to protect what is left, and to prevent more damage in the future. The generosity of this community gives me hope. I am amazed at the growing number of people who are supporting the Lancaster Conservancy when we show them what is at stake. The world is becoming wide awake to environmental destruction; we just need the will to turn this into a “land on the moon” moment, to do what we can, where we can, and to support policies to protect our precious natural resources. Working with Lancaster Conservancy has given me hope!