The Green Valleys Watershed Association (GVWA) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring natural watersheds in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, a region known for high-quality stream waters even amidst heavy suburban development. GVWA takes leadership roles in a wide range of projects to keep these watersheds healthy and thriving, engaging a diverse mix of nonprofits, educational institutions, local and state agencies, and local community members.
Watershed protection necessarily takes a long-term view. That’s why GVWA emphasizes educational programs that inspire young people (i.e. our future leaders and decision-makers) to put down their screens and get outdoors to better understand and appreciate the natural world. Ongoing programs like summer nature day camps, merit badge activities for Girl and Boy Scouts, after-school environmental clubs, and even an “Owl Prowl” (with real owls and other raptors!) all aim to instill a lifelong appreciation for nature and ecology, and a sense of the importance of environmental ethics and stewardship.
GVWA’s newest educational initiative, “H2YO!,” brings together middle school-age girls from diverse backgrounds to engage with science through the study of watersheds. The week-long schedule of hands-on scientific field work includes collecting river water samples and analyzing them in a laboratory, collecting pollution-sensitive insects to learn about the Clean Water Act, going "creek snorkeling” to see what (and who!) might be under the waters, and map-hiking through French Creek State Park to experience what a healthy watershed looks, feels, tastes, smells, and sounds like.
For adults, the "Schuylkill Water Stewards" training program includes a 20-hour mix of classroom and field work where participants learn about the science of a healthy watershed, threats to local streams, water sampling techniques, and much more. Data collected by these volunteers plays a vital role in an ongoing multi-state, science-based effort to protect and restore the Delaware River Watershed.
GVWA also partners with businesses, schools, and organizations to plant trees and shrubs along stream banks in major regional watersheds. These stream-side forests (“riparian buffer” is the technical term for them) anchor stream banks against erosion, filter out runoff pollutants, offer habitats for native insects and songbirds, shade stream-dwelling fish, mitigate floodwaters, and stabilize floodplains—all of which contribute to maintaining good stream health and regional water quality. GVWA also teams with local farmers to help them adopt best management practices for keeping agricultural waste out of stream waters.
GVWA is headquartered at “Welkinweir" (Old English for “where sky meets water”), now a 224-acre nature sanctuary, arboretum, education center, and event space that was originally the estate of GVWA founders Everett and Grace Rodebaugh. The property's picturesque stream with an intact riparian buffer, plus the surrounding woodlands, meadows, wetlands, ponds and gardens, all make Welkinweir a living laboratory of essential ecosystems, and a place where people of all ages can come to observe, appreciate, and learn about watershed ecology and sustainable land stewardship.