Around the world, this time of crisis is causing ripples across the water, allowing all of us to think about our work in new ways — and the Conservancy is doing the same. Here are just a few thoughts about the changes rippling through the Conservancy that I want to share with you.
Our first instinct is to protect our loved ones while still doing our jobs.
At the Conservancy, we closed our offices a week ago and started working remotely. We began new ways of communicating. Our phone and mail are still being answered and video conferences are now routine. Our grants and land deals with deadlines are being written and contracts executed, our communications team is in full swing engaging with our members, and our stewardship staff is safely working in the field, preparing our preserves for spring.
And an interesting thing has happened! Thousands of people descended on our preserves this last weekend, escaping into the woods for the “NatureRx” we’ve been inviting them to take advantage of for years. Our small preserve parking lots were often overflowing. People were desperate to find something to take their minds off of the anxiety inducing cascade of negative headlines.
Our second instinct is to protect our preserves.
Due to this influx of visitors, we made a very difficult decision to close the parking areas at our Tucquan Glen and Pyfer Nature Preserves because it became too dangerous. Over the weekend scores of cars tried to access the small parking area at this popular glen, resulting in double parking along the busy narrow road and in neighbors’ yards — an unsafe situation for both visitors and neighbors. But we also made this decision to protect the preserve. Tucquan Glen has been heavily used for years, with braided trails causing erosion, negative impacts on the fragile flora and fauna, trash left behind, and new unmarked trails created. Our Board has commissioned a firm to study what we can do to restore Tucquan Glen and make it safe moving forward. More announcements about the future of this preserve will be forthcoming.
Our mission is to manage our preserves — striking the delicate balance of preserving our ecosystems while inviting and even encouraging our community to enjoy them. Sometimes our preserves can get confused with parks, but there is a stark difference. Parks have infrastructure and are hardened to support a large amount of people, but nature preserves are wild and special places that are forever safeguarded against the rising tide of human development. Overuse can severely damage a preserve, and so tough choices must be made. The good news is that we have numerous other preserves, just as gorgeous as Tucquan Glen, that are open for you to explore. Please treat these special places with the respect nature deserves by following our rules & regulations.
Our third instinct is to protect (and strengthen) our organization.
We have had to cancel or postpone all of our spring events. These include our Take a Hike series, our Annual Meeting, our educational trainings at Climbers Run Nature Center, and Lancaster Water Week. We even pulled our Spring Appeal, feeling like now is not the right time to ask people for donations. There is a growing sense that the future is dark and our forward momentum may be going in reverse. But we also feel that this national emergency is prompting more people to seek us out and understand our mission.
Our public lands are an important part of health care and self-care — a key ingredient to get us to the other side of the pandemic. Our web traffic is off the charts, signaling to us that people are looking to our preserves as options to escape and bathe in nature’s beauty, take a hike, listen in stillness, breathe clean open air, and watch birds. This is an opportunity to bring many new friends into our circle of support and to explain our purpose with new clarity.
Thank you for joining us in our crusade to protect and save nature. Our hope is that we will all come out on the other side of this crisis stronger and even more passionate than ever about protecting the things that are important to each of us. For us here at the Conservancy, the things most worth protecting will always be our wild places and the community that treasures them.
Phil Wenger, President
Cover Photo by Michelle Johnsen Photography of Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve