Bucks County Herald

Bridget Wingert: Happy to Be Here

From Great Valley to Peace Valley

Elijah, Ryan and Scott check out the miniature replica of a Lenape Village.

For 43 years, as the Great Valley Nature Center, on property located at Hollow Road and Phoenixville Pike in Charlestown Township, Chester County, provided environmental education programs for children and adults.

In March, about a year after members hear the nature center might close, the nonprofit’s board of directors voted to dissolve the organization. It was left with a converted barn educational building, hiking equipment, canoes and kayaks, artifacts like skulls and bones, preserved animals and an abundance of teaching aids.

So there was a big sale. Everything had to be sold.

Too tempting for Jayne Jones to ignore. After all, she and her husband, Frank, were “ebayers.” They saw an opportunity to buy and sell.

They ended up buying and selling some things but also giving a lot away.

Because Jayne’s sister, Sue Bender, lives in Phoenixville, Jayne knew the nature center well, had taken her children there for camps and classes. Jayne had been there for Easter egg hunts and fundraisers, supporting the group’s endeavors.

There was so much there, Jayne said, “tents, sleeping bags, cooking grills, coolers, yoga mats, Ford vans, the kind of trailers that landscapers use.”

Her sister and son, Bryan, bought kayaks, the rest, the Joneses brought home on the trailers built to hold them.

As luck would have it, the Joneses, who live in Doylestown, also have frequented Peace Valley Nature Center.

Gail Hill, Peace Valley director, explained what happened next. “Jayne Jones stopped by one day bringing with her natural history items – taxidermy specimens and other items of interest to folks such as us. She informed me that Great Valley Nature Center had ceased operation.

“That is always distressing news when an environmental education facility shuts down. Now more than ever we need everyone to understand the importance of protecting our environment.”

Jayne told Gail that Great Valley was liquidating all its assets, including tubs and tubs of its program materials. “I contacted their board member, Ellen Calvecchio, and arranged to meet her to select items that would be of use to us.”

Gail saw a facility that had once housed many species of animals as well as birds of prey. There were a barn owl and snakes, books about nature and a covered wagon.

“Such a loss to our community,” Gail said. “There was a substantial size replica of a Lenape village, complete with the skeletons of long houses and wigwams.” She retrieved a small replica of a Lenape village that’s now on display at Peace Valley.

“I gathered many items that we are now using to enhance our programs. From corn cob darts to puppets, and all in between. We now have some fantastic skulls to show the size and structure of an alligator, bear and many others” Gail said.

Furs of many different mammals are now part of the Peace Valley collection and there’s a collection of tools and items that would have been used by the Lenape. “We also have a Lenape program; these items fit nicely into our existing classes,” Gail said.

As for the Joneses, they have sold a few things on ebay but there’s a bald eagle on their dining room table. And they bought one of the vans.

“We kept going back there,” Jayne said, never coming home empty-handed.

The future of the Great Valley Nature Center is uncertain.

“A few organizations are working towards a solution for the GVNC property and programs,” the Great Valley website announces. “As we find out details we promise to pass them along to you. Updates will be posted on the GV Nature Conservancy website and sent out via email to those who have registered.”

In reaction to the dissolution, the Great Valley Nature Conservancy, “has come together to imagine and explore ideas for future environmental education programs that could be offered at this historic and preserved natural location.”

The group has approached Charlestown Township and community organizations as possible buyers for the property but no plan has evolved.

Meanwhile, Peace Valley Nature Center is making good use of the unexpected bounty from Great Valley.


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