The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is an oasis of forests and fields in densely developed Philadelphia. Thanks to the Keystone Fund, a conservation easement permanently protects it for enjoyment by future generations.
Founded in 1965, the Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country. Two sisters, who envisioned an “island of green” where city dwellers could connect to nature, gifted 11 acres of farmland and woodland to make their vision a reality. In the following decades, the Center expanded it’s green footprint, acquiring a total of 340 acres.
In the past decades, two million people have visited the center or benefited from its programming. They have walked its three miles of public trails, raised food in its community gardens, picnicked, attended classes, and more.
The Center is a pioneer in connecting children to the outdoors. It offers public programs for all ages, engages schools in diverse nature education, and runs a popular summer camp. In the fall of 2013, the Center opened the Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool, Pennsylvania’s first nature-based preschool, immersing toddlers in nature and the outdoors.
Open space is rare in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia where the Center sits. Over the years, the Center’s valuable land began to attract developers. If sold, it could have provided much-needed funds for the non-profit organization. The Schuylkill Center Board of Directors faced difficult decisions about the future of the land.
But in the end, they chose conservation. In 2011, a $750,000 Keystone Fund grant was used to purchase a conservation easement on 325 acres of the property; the conservation easement, acquired by Natural Lands Trust, ensures the land will forever be protected and remain a place of learning and inspiration for the people of the city.