BVA honors stream volunteers at annual banquet

Photo by Chris Barber Former SECCRA Director Bill Stullkin, left, presents a check for $500 to Rene Rodriguiz, who was named Environmental Instructor of the Year at the BVA annual dinner. At right is BVA educational coordinator Sarah Fisher.

KENNETT — There’s plenty of cleaning up to be done in the streams of Chester County, but the often-blamed pollutants are not the current cause of the problem.

It’s not the mushroom farms, the cows or the street runoff, but sediment from old dams that is causing the impairment and nitrogen buildup in 40 percent of the streams these days.

That was the message from Brandywine Valley Association Watershed Director Bob Struble at the group’s annual banquet on Thursday at the Mendenhall Inn.

“Historically, mill ponds filled with sediment (on farms). Now the dams are down, but the sediment is still there,“ he said during his annual report in the year end review.


That sediment slows down the flow and is a detriment to stream health, he said.

Along the banks of the Brandywine and Red Clay creeks, there is also the problem of erosion, a condition that the BVA also seeks to remediate as well.

One way they treat the problem in some areas is to dig a straighter channel. That means bringing in land-moving equipment and digging a new path for the water. While some landowners disagree with the method, Struble said the process makes the flow more efficient and reduces erosion.

In his Power Point presentation, Struble showed photos of the remediation in progress as well as the damaging effects of streams that snake along curved paths.

Struble also traced the efforts of the 68-year-old watershed organization that was founded by his father in 1946.

He said the organization at that time advocated stream cleanups, contour farming and rotation of crops, among other things. Through the years, it has also promoted and participated in planting trees -- especially as stream bank buffers, implementing spray irrigation of waste water, saving rain water in barrels, constructing stream crossings for cattle and building innovative underpinnings for parking lots that absorb rather than pass on storm water.

Struble also praised the educational and fund-raising activities that include summer camps for youth, a special camp near Coatesville for at-risk children, school-related outdoor education programs and the annual Polar Plunge, which attracts hundreds of hardy participants who strip down to bathing suits and sneakers and dive into the freezing waters of the Brandyine in January.

During its annual get-together that included a silent auction and complimentary crab bar, BVA Executive Director Jim Jordan and his staff recognized volunteers who had donated their time and efforts to the organization.

From the outdoor education staff, Paula Appleton was named the educational instructor of the year.

Rene Rodriguiz, a teacher at Westtown-Thornbury School, was named teacher of the year. Education Coordinator Sarah Fisher said he at first brought his child to the BVA for a program and then became so enamored with environmental education that he created extensive programs and activities in his classes.

In recognition of his efforts, he was presented with a $500 check from the Kneale Dockstader Foundation by former SECCRA Director Bill Stullkin.

There was also a stewardship award given to the Birmingham (Township) Environmental Stream Team, known as “BEST.” Founder Marlou MacIvar was praised by BEST member Cathy Bergman, who gave a Power Point presentation of the work the group does. Struble said it is the only environmental action team he knows of in Chester County that is directly related to its municipality. The group does stream-monitoring, offers environmental education, advocates no-mow zones near streams and publishes regularly scheduled reports of stream health.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Terry Peach, who spoke about his experiences fly fishing and guiding fishermen in the Brandywine Creek.